INTERNATIONAL GEOSCIENCES STUDY LOOKS INTO THOUSANDS OF YEARS OF TROPICAL PEATLAND EVOLUTION ACROSS BRUNEI DARUSSALAM


In February 2020, a group of researchers and students from the Geosciences Programme of the Faculty of Science (FOS), UBD, together with peat experts from the University of Patras, Greece conducted a three-week fieldwork expedition across pristine tropical peatlands in Brunei Darussalam. This was a collaborative research activity under the Project “The Last 10,000 years: Unravelling the Holocene Geological and Ecological History of Brunei Darussalam by Decoding Peatlands”, funded by UBD. The project is a result of enhanced international collaboration between UBD and foreign institutions and aims to determine the geological evolution of Brunei’s peatlands, and to evaluate the current and past conditions of these ecosystems.

 

The research team with the rangers before entering the jungle for sampling

 

Peatlands comprise valuable archives of past climatic and geological information and are very important ecosystems for carbon storage. Their important contribution is evident from the fact that they are capable of storing millions of tons of carbon, thus reducing the carbon load from the atmosphere. Southeast Asia is one of the most important regions on Earth for the occurrence of tropical peatlands but, unfortunately, poor management and wildfires in many places has ultimately led to their degradation, thus increasing the global emission of greenhouse gases with adverse effects on the global climate. Brunei Darussalam has one of the last pristine peatlands on Earth and this study is very important for raising local and international awareness about the vulnerability of these very fragile ecosystems. The results of this study will help the research team understand the evolution of the geological environment and climate of Brunei Darussalam over the last 10,000 years. The research team will be able to identify the types of plants that existed in Brunei Darussalam, as well as changes in the environment and eventually the climatic conditions, which were established in the area. The research team overcame adverse sampling conditions, reaching inaccessible areas in the deep, dense jungle with the invaluable assistance and protection of the forest rangers from the Royal Brunei Police Force. The rangers of Tasek Merimbun Heritage Park were also involved in the fieldwork at Tasek Merimbun.

 

Sampling and logging of peat samples conducted at each site

 

The delegation was led by Assoc Prof Dr Basilios Tsikouras, of Geosciences, FOS, as well as two foreign experts: Prof Kimon Christanis and Dr Stavros Kalaitzidis from the University of Patras, Greece. Five graduate students and one undergraduate student from both universities were also involved in the project.

 

Preparation of the research team and the rangers to enter in the Temburong jungle

 

The local students were exposed to an amazing new experience, and a new research area for the university, while they were trained in special techniques of sampling and research. The trip took place 5th–22nd February ad involved acquiring data and samples across Tutong, Belait and Temburong Districts. Please visit the sites below to watch videos from the expedition of the research team.

 

Hand driven drilling for sampling peat samples from UBD students