Tag Archives: Ecosystem

Heath soil is far from basic

Interviewed: Giacomo Sellan, plant scientist (giacomo.sellan@ecofog.gf)

(Photo: Heath forest in Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, Sabah | Pic by Giacomo Sellan)

The Ibans call heath forests “Kerangas”, which means “lands that will not grow rice”. And it is not just rice that could not make it there. 

As one treks from the lush lowland forests into heath forests, the trees change. Tall, thick trees give way to stunted ones with gnarled branches and “gracious” leaves, looking similar to bonsai trees, says plant scientist Giacomo Sellan.

Continue reading Heath soil is far from basic

Mapping Every Hill

Interviewed: Dr Liew Thor Seng, biologist [thorseng@ums.edu.my]

IF YOU don’t know where all the limestone hills are, how will you know which to protect, which to quarry? Moreover, if you want to protect them, which ones do you begin with?

Well, decision-makers now have at their fingertips, Malaysia’s most comprehensive database and map of limestone hills.

(Photo: Screen capture of the online gazetteer showing details of limestone outcrop of interest in Malaysia | Courtesy of Liew Thor Seng)

Continue reading Mapping Every Hill

Fish On Land

Species: Mudskipper (Actinopterygii : Gobiiformes)

Known Range: Indo-Pacific, India, Africa

Size: (Adult) Up to 25 cm long

Interviewed: Khaironizam Md Zain, freshwater ecologist (khaironizam@usm.my)

(Photo: Gold-spotted Mudskippers (Periophthalmus chrysospilos) waddling in the mudflats at Bako National Park, Sarawak | Pic by Chien Lee)

WHAT IS an animal that walks on mud, breathes through its skin, and swims using fins? A mudskipper! While they are fish and classified in the fish family Gobiidae, mudskippers don’t quite look like one. 

Continue reading Fish On Land

How Do Mangroves Escape the Salt?

Interviewed: Alison Kim Shan Wee, molecular ecologist (kimshan.wee[at]nottingham.edu.my)

(Photo: Awash in sea water twice daily, mangrove trees have adapted to the challenging environment | Pic by Alison Kim)

HOW ARE mangroves, which grow by tropical and subtropical coasts, the same as plants in the deserts or the Arctic? Well, they are all extremophiles — a group of organisms that are able to thrive in extreme environments. 

According to molecular ecology researcher Alison Kim Shan Wee, mangrove trees can live in soil of high salt levels, which could kill most other trees.

Continue reading How Do Mangroves Escape the Salt?

What Conservationists Want In Budget 2021

ACCORDING to the Parliamentary schedule, the Malaysian government will table Budget 2021 in the Parliamentary meeting on 6 November. 

The Budget would reflect the government’s plans to carry the country out of the pandemic woes of 2020. 

Malaysians have had a troubled year. Our lives, economy and national policies were derailed by the Covid-19 pandemic and unexpected changes in the Federal government and state governments of Johor, Melaka, Kedah and Sabah

Many conservation groups struggled to keep finances and operations running.

Amidst the turbulence, Malaysians continue to see our environment degrade: pollution of rivers and coasts; clear-felling and degazettement of forest reserves for economic activities; human-elephant conflicts; and poaching. 

Continue reading What Conservationists Want In Budget 2021

Cave Cockroach (Pycnoscelus striatus)

Species: Pycnoscelus striatus (Insecta: Blattodea)

Known Range: Malaysia, Sumatra, the Philippines

Size: (Adult) 15 mm long , ~diameter of 10-sen coin

Interviewed: Dr Lim Teck Wyn, biologist

(Photo: Shaharin Yussof )

“CUTE” IS how Teck Wyn describes the cave cockroach, Pycnoscelus striatus. “The nymphs”—the juvenile stage of cockroaches—“are adorable, scurrying sort of things.”

Continue reading Cave Cockroach (Pycnoscelus striatus)


This is where we feature the various ecosystems in Malaysia. From cloud forests to coral reefs, these are the rawest reasons we do environmental journalism. For each ecosystem, we tell the stories of not only the natural living and non-living components of these communities and systems, but also the human ones. Here, you can explore natural Malaysia in text, voice and photos, guided by the experience of those who know it well.


Pitcher plants (Nepenthes rafflesiana) climbing up trees at Bako National Park, Sarawak. (Clivid on Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/lungfish2000/6928265509/in/album-72157629450399257, CC-BY, ND 2.0)
Pitcher plants (Nepenthes rafflesiana) climbing up trees at Bako National Park, Sarawak. (Clivid on Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/lungfish2000/6928265509/in/album-72157629450399257, CC-BY, ND 2.0)

The Ibans call heath forests ‘Kerangas’, or the land that cannot grow rice. These forests, mostly found on Borneo, are a rare and largely unknown feature of Malaysia’s tropical ecosystems. Sandy, acidic soil means dry, nutrient-poor environments. And yet, a unique community has evolved to thrive there.

Heath forest in Kabili-Sepilok Forest Reserve, Sabah. (Giacomo Sellan)


with Giacomo Sellan
Giacomo Sellan)



Mangroves, Kemaman, Terengganu (SK Chong/Sasyaz Holdings)
Mangroves, Kemaman, Terengganu (SK Chong/Sasyaz Holdings)

Living between sea and land are mangroves (‘bakau’), protectors of coasts, ‘reclaimers’ of land, nurseries for fish. An ecosystem that is at once wet and dry, brackish and saline, it is defined most by stilt roots and mudflats. But its biodiversity and ecosystem roles are larger and more complex than what meets the eye.

Gold-spotted Mudskippers (Periophthalmus chrysospilos) waddling in the mudflat at Bako National Park, Sarawak. Photo by Chien Lee.

FISH ON LAND: Mudskipper (Gobiiformes)

with Khaironizam Md Zain
Chien Lee)

Awash in sea water twice daily, mangrove trees thrive in a challenging environment.


with Alison Kim Shan Wee
Alison Kim)

Boardwalk in mangrove forest at Matang, Perak, Malaysia


with A. Aldrie Amir
A. Aldrie Amir)

Saltwater crocodile in water.

REPTILE KING: Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)

with Wan Nor Fitri Wan Jaafar
(Photo: Wan Nor Fitri Wan Jaafar)


  • Mangrove Carbon Stores 
  • Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)


Karst Ecosystem poster - Macaranga
Tower form, Gunung Rapat, Kinta Valley (photo: Cheang Kum Seng)

Popularly referred to as limestone (‘batu kapur’), Malaysia’s remarkable karst landscape has been sculpted by centuries of action of water on soft rock. It is also home to unique life-forms and is part of human life. Coming up, we talk to those who know it well to celebrate its myriad facets, in our first ecosystem spotlight.

An online gazetteer for limestone outcrops in Malaysia can be used to locate limestone outcrops of interest (Liew Thor Seng)


with Liew Thor Seng
Liew Thor Seng)

Rock climbing on limestone (Photo: Chan Yuen Li)

SCALING HEIGHTS: Rock climbing

with Chan Yuen Li
Chan Yuen Li)

Dawn bat (Eonycteris spelaea) live in large roosts in limestone hill caves. One of the largest fruit bats in mainland Southeast Asia, dawn bats pollinate many species of fruit trees, including regional favourites durian and petai. (Photo: Juliana Senawi)

FOR DURIAN LOVERS: Dawn bat (Eonycteris spelaea)

with Zubaid Akbar Mukhtar Ahmad
(Photo: Juliana Senawi)

Karst ecosystem: Land snail (Opisthostoma vermiculum) (Photo: Foon Junn Kit)

FOUR AXES: Minute land snail (Whittenia vermiculum)

with Foon Junn Kit
(Photo: Foon Junn Kit)

KKarst ecosystem: Cave cockroach Pycnoscelus striatus (Photo: Shaharin Yussof)

CAVE TRANSFORMER: Cave cockroach (Pycnoscelus striatus)

with Lim Teck Wyn
(Photo: Shaharin Yussof)


Karst ecosystem: Perak Limestone (Photo: Cheang Kum Seng)

LIMESTONE LENSING: Karst photography

with Cheang Kum Seng
(Photo: Cheang Kum Seng)

Species Name 7

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