Malaysia

Geographical

Malaysia is a tropical country that belongs to the Sundaland biogeographical region and covering an area of about 33.02 million hectares (ha) consisting of; Peninsular Malaysia, the states of Sabah and Sarawak in the eastern region and the Federal Territory of Labuan in the north-western coastal area of Borneo Island.

In 2013, Malaysia’s multi-racial and multi ethnic population is estimated at 29.7 million. Malaysia practises a system of Parliamentary democracy with a constitutional monarchy with three branches of government, namely the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. The Supreme Law of the country is the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, where it provides the authority to legislate matters relevant to biological diversity under the jurisdiction of the Federal and State Governments. Some subject matters pertaining to natural resources such as land and forests fall under the responsibility of the State Governments.

Geographically, Malaysia lies entirely in the equatorial zone with an average daily temperature varying from 21°C to 32°C throughout Malaysia. There are eight mountain ranges present in Peninsular Malaysia making up close to 20% of the land area of Peninsular Malaysia with a general alignment of the mountain ranges in a north-south direction. The Main Range, known as the Banjaran Titiwangsa is the largest, most prominent and continuous mountain range in Peninsular Malaysia stretching approximately 500 km from the border of Malaysia with Thailand in the north to Negeri Sembilan where its height decreases and merges into the State of Malacca’s coastal plain. Overall topography of Sabah is mountainous and the iconic Mt. Kinabalu stands at 4,095 m while Sarawak’s mountain ranges rise to over 1,500 m and thereby forms the division between Sarawak and Kalimantan (Indonesia).

Under the pledge of 1992 Rio Earth Summit, Malaysia is committed to maintain at least 50% of her land area under forest and tree cover in perpetuity and approximately 18.01 million ha or 54.5% of Malaysia remains forested in 2012. Of this area, approximately 14.5 million ha have been designated as Permanent Reserved Forest (PRF) or Permanent Forest Estate (PFE). Peat swamp forests contributes a significant portion of forest cover in Malaysia with estimated 1.54 million ha still remaining. Majority of peat swamps are found in the State of Sarawak estimated at around 70%, while less than 20% in Peninsular Malaysia and the remainder in Sabah.

Malaysia has a coastline of some 4,800 km in total and sits on the geologically stable Sunda Shelf. Peninsular Malaysia has a coastline of about 1,972 km that borders the South China Sea in the East, the Straits of Johor in the South, and Straits of Malacca in the West. About half of the coastline is beaches and slightly less than half is fringed with mangrove forest. Coral reefs in Malaysia are estimated to cover close to 4,006 km² supporting not less than 700 species of fish that are dependent on coral reefs as a habitat.

In Peninsular Malaysia, mangroves are found largely sheltered along the west coast that borders the Straits of Malacca. Key near-shore islands such as the Pulau Klang in Selangor and Pulau Kukup in Johor are also predominantly colonized by mangroves. Sabah and Sarawak contain almost 82% of the nation’s mangroves. In Sabah, mangrove forests are found largely on the east coast facing the Sulu Sulawesi Seas while in Sarawak, these forests are located at the river mouths of Rajang and the Trusan-Sundar. Within the PRFs in Malaysia, a total of the 544,032 ha of mangrove areas was recorded in 2012; showing an increase of mangroves areas from 2009 at 539,142 ha. Of which, the largest area of mangrove forest in the country and within PRFs is in Sabah at 333,019 ha, followed by Sarawak at 112,165 ha and in Peninsular Malaysia at 98,848 ha.

Blessed with a vast array of ecosystems, Malaysia is recognised as one of the 12 mega-diverse countries in the world. The core of biodiversity in Malaysia lies in its tropical rainforests, a unique natural heritage which has evolved over 130 million years, resulting in very rich flora and fauna. Both the beach and mangrove ecosystems also boast a distinct, unique and spectacular biodiversity, and provide a broad range of ecological services ranging from tourism and recreation to providing critical habitat for reptilian, crustacean, mollusk and fish species.

Malaysia biodiversity accounts at high fauna diversity with 307 species of wild mammals, more than 785 species of birds, 567 species of reptiles, 242 species of amphibians, more than 449 species of freshwater fish and more than 150,000 estimated species of invertebrates. The flora diversity in Malaysia is not absolutely known but is nonetheless exceptionally rich. A conservative estimate of flora could consist of around 15,000 species. Particularly, there are about 38 species of true mangroves and generally, mangrove plant species diversity is comparable with that of the global diversity; as at least 70 species from 28 families have been recorded.

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