Czech and Brunei researchers explore the lowland forests of Kuala Belalong
Researchers from the Czech Republic and Brunei Darussalam recently collaborated on a biodiversity exploration of the flora and fauna of the Kuala Belalong lowland forests, in the interior of Brunei’s Heart of Borneo area. Hosted by the Institute for Biodiversity and Environmental Research (IBER) of Universiti Brunei Darussalam
, the group of 28 researchers were at UBD’s Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre
(KBFSC), Ulu Temburong for a two week period on 5 to 19 January 2014. Three Czech institutions, Palacky University, Ostrava University and the Institute of Botany, Czech Academy of Sciences, worked with academics from IBER to investigate and catalogue the diversity and ecology of invertebrates, herbaceous plants and bryophytes in the lowland Mixed Dipterocarp Forest of the KBFSC research area.
The intensive field work has generated substantial biodiversity data, including new records of herbaceous and mycoheterotrophic plants, and various invertebrate species for Brunei. Among these were Thismia hexagona, a plant endemic to Kuala Belalong. Discovered by the botanists during their 2013 field trip to KBFSC, this plant belongs to a unique small group of achlorophyllous mycoheterotrophic herbaceous plants. This year’s survey at the KBFSC permanent forest plots recorded an additional 11 mycoheterotrophic species, including new records of Burmannia and Epirixanthes, and a high diversity of herbaceous plants particularly from the family Zingiberaceae.
Research on invertebrate diversity has yielded many significant findings, including species of macromoths, earwigs (Dermaptera), true flies and fungus gnats (Diptera), beetles (Coleoptera) and Aranea that are new to science. The researchers estimate that for the fungus gnats alone, more than 65 species were collected, approximately 80% of which is represented by previously undescribed species. Some of these fungus gnat species represent genera previously unknown from Borneo. Other invertebrate taxa, such as the millipede order Glomeridesmida, fly family Rachiceridae, beetle family Rhagophthalmidae, spider family Hahniidae were recorded for the first time in Brunei.
Collaborative work from the visit is expected to continue in the coming months, culminating in joint publications between UBD and the Czech institutions. The results of these studies are aimed to highlight Brunei’s global role as a biodiversity hotspot, and the importance of conservation of insect and herbaceous plant diversity within Brunei’s Heart of Borneo.