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Forest Department Sarawak
Types and Categories of Sarawak's ForestsTypes and Categories of Sarawak's Forests

Types and Categories of Sarawak's Forests

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Sarawak is the second to Peninsular Malaysia in terms of landmass covering 12.4 million hectares and is located on the island of Borneo.  The management of forest land in Sarawak is cover an area of the Permanent Forest Estate (Protected Forest, Forest Reserve and Communal Forest).  About 62.3% (7.75 mil. ha) of the State land mass area is under forest cover (based on satellite imageries *2018*).   Forest land in Sarawak are classified mainly into three (3) categories i.e. Permanent Forest Estates, Totally Protected Areas (National Parks, Wildlife Sanctuaries and Nature Reserves) and Stateland Forest.

Sarawak has several different forest or vegetation types that are generally recognised. These include Hill Mixed Dipterocarp Forest (7.35 mil. ha), Peat Swamp Forest (0.33 mil. ha), Mangrove Forest (0.07 mil. ha) and others (Kerangas Forest, Montane Forest and Limestone Forest).

The State Government has designated about 6 million hectares of the forest areas are designated as the *Permanent Forest* which is meant for sustainable forest management and about 1 million hectares are designated as Totally Protected Areas.

Hill Mixed Dipterocarp Forest is the most widespread and arguably the most complex of Sarawak’s forest type. It occurs from the inland limit of the coastal peat swamps to the lower limit of the Montane Forest in the interior (c. 1’500 m above sea level) and is characterised by a great diversity of species and life forms. Trees, shrubs, herbs and climbers occupy the space from the forest floor up to the main canopy (at about 45m). Some trees emerge from the main canopy and can reach 60 metres tall. A high proportion of the trees in this forest type belong to the Dipterocarp family (e.g. Meranti, Selangan Batu, Kapur, Keruing and Mersawa) and produce valuable logs owing to their large size, cylindrical shape and excellent timber properties. MDF is currently the most important forest type economically due to its wide extent and its composition.

Peat Swamp Forest is also extensive and is located chieftly on low-lying coastal plains and inland along the lower river systems where the water table is usually at or near the soil surface. It is less diverse than MDF but contains valuable and economically important timber tree species.

Mangrove Forest covers a comparatively small area as it occurs only in tidal and estuarine areas from coastal mudflats as far upriver, and landward, as the limits of saline influence. It includes only those few species that can survive periodic exposure to wave action and inundation by tidal or brackish water. Its composition varies from place to place depending on the frequency of inundation and the salinity of the water. Pure Bakau stands occur in some parts of the mangrove and these are an important source of poles for charcoal production. Mangrove forest is rich in other resources that local communities harvest (crabs, nipah sugar, atap) and is where prawns and fish breed, so is vital to local fisheries. The other forest types in Sarawak are neither extensive nor economically important.

Sarawak’s natural forests have high plant diversity due to the great variety of habitats. There are about 3,000 known tree species of which 40% of Sarawak’s plant species are endemic to Borneo. There are about 185 mammal species, 530 bird species, 166 snake species, 104 lizard species and 113 amphibian species in the State. A large proportion of Sarawak’s animals are unique to Borneo and do not occur in mainland South-east Asia. 

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