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January 29, 2011

SAFE Project To Protect Rainforest - Najib

TAWAU, 29 Jan (Bernama) -- Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak launched on Saturday the Stability of Altered Forest Ecosystems project which he described as the largest ecological experiment of its kind ever established.

The Prime Minister said the SAFE project was to help protect rainforest ecosystems and conserve the biodiversity they support within the context of agricultural production.

He regarded the launch at Maliau Basin here as a historic even because he said the project "will provide the basis for a 10-year study into the impact of forest modifications."

This meant the impact of logging, deforestation and forest fragmentation on the functioning of tropical rainforests, he said.

The project is a collaboration between Sime Darby Foundation and the Royal Society of SEARRP, the Southeast Asia Rainforest Research Programme. The foundation will inject RM30 million into the project, which has the Maliau Basin Studies Centre as the base for research.

Najib said that Maliau Basin, known as Sabah's Lost World, with its vast species of flora and fauna, provided the perfect setting for the project.

He said that research was necessary to acquire knowledge of the systems that must be established to protect tropical rainforests in Malaysia.

"This research will make a major contribution to the understanding of how biodiversity can be protected and maintained on plantations.

"It will also assess how to balance the economic benefits from the oil palm industry with the need for environmental conservation and sustainable development," he added.

The research team is led by Dr Rob Ewers from the Imperial College of the United Kingdom and Dr Glen Reynolds from the Royal Society of SEARRP, and will include scientists from Oxford University, Cambridge University, Stanford University, Zurich University and Universiti Malaysia Sabah.

Sime Darby chairman Tun Musa Hitam said the project will contribute a lot to sustainable palm oil and plantation management, and will help establish "solid and scientifically sound" guidelines for existing and future plantations.

The funding will also go towards eight PhD scholarships, six senior post-doctoral positions (half of them offered to Malaysians) and the salaries and training of a large team of locally recruited research assistants or laboratory technicians, among others.

SEARRP, based at the Danum Valley Field Centre in Lahad Datu, has a 25-year history of managing large-scale research projects and facilitating collaborative scientific programmes in Malaysia.




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