In March, EFT headed to Sungai Menyala Edu Ecotourism Centre, a reserve covering 1,280 hectares of secondary rainforest, for a one-day trip with EPSOM college. The trip focused on teaching students all the skills they need to investigate a tropical rainforest’s biological health.
First, we taught the students survey methods for studying the rainforest. We got them -- bucket hats on and water bottles at the ready -- setting up quadrats within two 25 by 25 meter random sampling grids. The students assessed the plant biodiversity of their sample area and also looked at the canopy cover of the forest. Normally only 5% of light reaches the forest floor in a primary (untouched) rainforest, so it was interesting to make a comparison between that and our results in a secondary (disturbed) rainforest. To assess the age of the forest, the students also measured the height and diameter of randomly selected trees, and calculated the biodiversity indices and compare the values at each site.
To help the students understand this beautiful and intricate ecosystem, EFT staff also gave a presentation on the rainforest where the students learnt about symbiotic relationships, like how the biggest flower in the world, the Rafflesia, smells like rotting flesh on purpose, in order to attract carrion flies, who in turn pollinate the flower. They were also shown how the flowers’ parasitic behaviour, as these flowers only grow on vines found in the forest, leeching all of the vines’ nutrients.
Afterwards, the students had the opportunity to learn about the culture of the Orang Asli people, the original people of the Malaysian peninsula who traditionally led nomadic lives in the rainforests. The students discussed how the lives of the Orang Asli were changed over the past 100 years by the introduction of palm oil plantations.
Last but not least, EFT staff took the students on a rainforest walk around the education centre. While on the trail, students were shown how to identify different types of herbivory and seed dispersal techniques by looking at the plants around them. We also saw some rainforest fauna such as a rainforest frog species and a true bug that was covered in luminous pollen. While on the trail, we also came across a gigantic tree that was hollow at the base and had a large opening in its side. We managed to climb up (with some difficulty) to get a great picture of a few of the team members.
Carina Rees - EFT Biologist