Do you know about the world’s tallest tropical tree ?
The world’s tallest tropical tree is the Shorea faguetiana or Yellow Meranti trees of Sabah, Malaysia, which grows to a jaw-dropping 100.8m. That’s even taller than London’s Big Ben.
Do you know how much rainforest cover the Earth ?
Rainforests only cover around 2% of the total surface area of the Earth and about 6% of the Earth‘s land surface, but about 50% of all known species of the plants and animals on the earth live in the rainforest.
Do you know that there is a protected forest reserve next to the City of Elmina ?
Bukit Cherakah, which sits next to the City of Elmina, is a protected forest reserve. Bukit Cherakah Forest Reserve is administered by the Selangor State Forestry Department and governed by the National Forestry Act (Adoption) Enactment 1985. It is protected as a Permanent Forest Reserve under Water Catchment Forest class.
Urbanisation and biodiversity conservation always seem to be at odds with one another.
Urban expansion typically drives biodiversity loss by either land-use change which disrupts viable habitats for biodiversity to thrive or via habitat fragmentations from linear infrastructures and residential plots which inhibits movement of wildlife which ultimately results in local extinction.
However, it is proven that some urban cities today have the ability to become a refuge for biodiversity that can adapt to changes in the ecosystem.
Cities can act as potential centres for biodiversity conservation, provided preservation policies and good practices are in order and followed through in every stage of urban development.
In facing the climate crisis and the critical rate of biodiversity loss, balancing urban development and conservation should not be a zero-sum game. Cities of today should be developed by integrating biodiversity in mind, such as creating forests within cities that help in restoring and creating better habitats, which are beneficial for both nature and humans.
The Urban Forest
Urban forests are the most evident form of green infrastructure in cities and are made out of the trees and shrubs present in urban areas, where planting strategy should mimic the natural forest structures. Besides serving to provide ecosystem services, such as flood mitigation for urban populations, it may act as a core habitat for urban biodiversity to flourish by providing all the resources they need.
Examples of Urban Forests
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia – Gazetted in 1906, the Kuala Lumpur Eco Park (Taman Eko Rimba Kuala Lumpur) was formerly the Bukit Nanas Forest Reserve and after 116 years, it stands as one of Malaysia’s oldest permanent forest reserves. It is the green lung for the whole of the city, with buildings and skyscrapers sprawling around its nine-hectare spread. A total of 35 bird species from 25 families were recorded in a survey by the Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia. Majority are common native birds and some are migratory birds. This park offers recreational activities to avid hikers, joggers and trekking enthusiasts.
Tokyo, Japan - In the wake of World War 2, Tokyo was left practically barren, with 60% of its trees being destroyed. As its culture innately respects nature as a source of inspiration, imagination and creativity, the government started reconstruction of its cityscapes infused with greenery. In 1990, over 21,000 hectares of Tokyo’s green space are forests that were made to conserve water. These forests also supply the city its clean drinking water, its wastewater disposal system and stormwater control.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janerio, Brazil – As an urban world famous city that has the world’s largest rainforest and river system, Rio de Janeiro has one of the largest urban forest as well. The Tijuca Forest is almost 4,000 hectares that has been replanted by hand after being reclaimed for being a coffee plantation and coal mine. This amazing park is today home to a rich variety of species that are endemic to the Amazon rainforest, including endangered ones.
Rewilding A City
Sime Darby Property is undertaking a biodiversity enhancement and restoration project in facilitating wildlife to seek refuge within its townships urban spaces.
The wellness-oriented City of Elmina was masterplanned to facilitate urban biodiversity through the extension of the Bukit Cherakah Forest Reserve into the township via the creation of the 121.4-hectare Elmina Central Park.
To date, about 37 hectares of the Elmina Central Park has been completed, and various species of wildlife including otters and rare species of birds have been observed within these pockets of urban forests that were created.
Key Priorities in the City of Elmina’s Biodiversity Restoration Project
Minimal Topography Changes
Cut and fill of earthworks are minimised and the land is preserved as much as possible by aligning streets to contours. About 34 hectares of the Elmina Central Park has been designated as a Forest Park, in which the forest’s unique ecology will be incorporated into the landscape, allowing the general public to immerse and interact with a natural forest environment within an urban setting.
Rivers Are Widened
As a whole, the waterways are integrated into parklands so that they blend seamlessly with the landscape, facilitate flood mitigation up to Q1000 level and contribute to the health of the city, as well as provide utility for people, communities and the environment.
Diversification Of Planted Tree Species
The Central Park is planted with different species of trees, especially native species. Some of the forest species planted are assessed as Endangered, Rare and Threatened (ERT) species by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, a global effort that classifies biodiversity according to its extinction risk. By incorporating native and ERT tree species within the township’s landscape, Sime Darby Property aspires to slowly nurture a balanced ecosystem for biodiversity to thrive. Apart from providing food and habitat resources for wildlife, these planted trees — which are currently facing extinction risk — can survive undisturbed, mature and even reproduce within the City of Elmina.
Bringing Biodiversity Back
Biodiversity conservation started off as an idea within Sime Darby Property. Today, that aspiration has taken root and spread across its consultants and contractors to be socially responsible towards the environment. The Company will continue to multiply values not only within Sime Darby Property but also across multiple stakeholders in restoring a greener tomorrow.
Elmina Rainforest Knowledge Centre
The Elmina Rainforest Knowledge Centre (ERKC), a forestry research and education centre, is operated by Tropical Rainforest Conservation & Research Centre (TRCRC).
Since opening its doors in 2021, TRCRC has hosted 353 students and teachers from national and international schools, engaged with 10,290 people through botanical walks, biodiversity education programmes, environmental talks, webinars, photography competitions, tree planting and nursery tours. ERKC also hosted visitors from corporate and authority bodies to know further about biodiversity restoration. TRCRC welcomes visitors to the centre including Sime Darby Property’s real-estate peers to learn about urban biodiversity initiatives.
The Elmina Living Collection Nursery
The Elmina Living Collection Nursery (ELCN) is part of this knowledge centre where a variety of endangered trees species are nurtured, functioning as a seed and gene bank for future ecosystem and habitat restoration.
A key constraint of restoration projects is often the mismatch between the growing demand of native tree species and limited seed supply in quantity and quality. TRCRC focuses on the family of dipterocarp trees, as these trees are a keystone species of the Malaysian tropical rainforest that is essential to its ecological function, interactions and structure. Dipterocarps are threatened due to overharvesting of their timber, which holds very high commercial value and distinction as the best-known trees in the tropical rainforest and the most vulnerable.
Tree Restoration Process by TRCRC
Forest ecosystem restoration
Forest ecosystem restoration is an opportunity for biodiversity recovery and species conservation. Through these restoration efforts at ERKC and ELCN, dipterocarps are properly nurtured with the hopes that we can protect them from being more threatened and eventually becoming extinct.
Planting these species within the City of Elmina would help create various positive domino effects, from providing resources for wildlife to thrive in the cities, providing a healthier ecosystem that can mitigate climate change effects to more cooling and relaxing spaces for urban communities to enjoy.
A Future In Ecological Balance
The growing demand of urban population is inevitable, but our next generations' green future demands remain a higher priority. We cannot restore biodiversity alone and require the best minds in the industry to journey with us.
TRCRC updates Sime Darby Property on its technical expertise and introduces biodiversity conservation and restoration into the company’s corporate fabric. Through this partnership, Sime Darby Property with TRCRC work on projects beyond the traditional approach of simply planting trees, but via a smarter integration of urban planning that balances societal needs and ecosystem health, which is of utmost importance for our survival. ERKC as the centre of this initiative is more than a physical space to learn about biodiversity and on-the-ground conservation action; it also symbolises what corporations can do in order to leave a healthier planet for future generations.
Watch the full video to find out more
The journey to bring nature back into our urban spaces continues to progress forward as we multiply our efforts in city rewilding initiatives. Together, let’s start growing tomorrow’s forests today. Join us to make a change.