South-East Pahang peat swamp forest

Year of compilation: 2003

Site description
(I) Physical CharacteristicsThe area consists of a huge expanse of swamp forest involving the Pahang, Pekan, Nenasi, Resak, Rompin and Endau Swamp Forest in south-eastern Pahang State stretching south from Kuantan to the Pahang-Johor border and extending some 40km inland from the coast. The terrain is generally low-lying with occasional hills (DWNP, 1987). Several rivers drain the forests such as Sungai Endau, Sungai Rompin, Sungai Pahang, Sungai Bebar and Sungai Merchong. The lower reaches of the rivers are brackish and acidic in nature in peat areas. There is extensive seasonal flooding between October-January due to the northeast monsoon (DWNP, 1987). SEPPSF complex exists as a single, nearly contagious ecological unit with mosaic of interlinked natural habitat, characterized by both the inland and coastal influenced habitat types. The forest complex in the SEP region forms a broad band stretching from Pekan town southwards following the coast down towards Kuala Rompin. The band is broadest south of Pekan, and narrows considerably past Nenasi. It is broken into three major blocks by the Sg Bebar and Sg Merchong. Within the complex, habitat diversity is very high with PSF being the most prominent ecosystem type. Within these habitat types, there exist highly unique/threatened habitats and among them, the PSF, freshwater swamp forest & heath forest types are of conservation importance.The peat swamps in the lower Pahang basin were once much more extensive, being present both north and south of the Pahang River and stretching towards Kuala Rompin. Now, almost all of the peat swamp to the north, between the river and Kuantan, and south to Kuala Rompin has been lost(II) Climatic ConditionsThe east coast is subjected to the north-east monsoon (October-January), which brings heavy rainfall often with extensive local flooding. Average annual rainfall is 2,000-3,500 mm (DWNP, 1987).

Key biodiversity
The Southeast Pahang swamp forests may be the last remaining suitable area for the Lesser Adjutant to roost and nest (Wells 1999; Howes et al 1986). However, its status and habitat in the area awaits assessment. The swamp forests also contain socio-economic and nature conservation value (Malaysian Wetland Working Group 1986). The area represents the largest intact peat swamp forest in mainland tropical Asia and is also the only significant area of peat swamp forest left intact in the peninsula (Sebastian 1998). It is among the oldest of its habitat type and consequently exhibits a highly developed peat swamp forest in Peninsular Malaysia.Lesser Fish-eagle, Grey-headed Fish-eagle, Great Hornbill

Non-bird biodiversity: A colony of Flying Foxes Pteropus vampyrus may still occur within the swamp forest in Nenasi (Zubaid Akbar et al., 2000). The colony may be one of the largest remaining in the peninsula. Durio carinatus, which is endemic to the east coast of Peninsular Malaysia can also be found in the area.(I) Globally threatened mammals (IUCN, 2002): ENDANGERED: Tiger Panthera tigris, Asian Elephant Elephas maximus, Otter-Civet Cynogale bennetti; DATA DEFICIENT: Hairy-nosed Otter Lutra sumatrana, Malayan Sun Bear Helarctos malayanus(II) Globally threatened reptiles (IUCN, 2002): CRITICAL: Painted Terrapin Callagur borneoensis; VULNERABLE: Asiatic Softshell Turtle Amyda cartilaginea(III) Globally threatened plants (IUCN, 2002): VULNERABLE: Gonystylus bancanusSpecies restricted to peat-swampsCommercial timber speciesGonystylus bancanus (Ramin; restricted to peat swamps; commercial timber) - classified as VU by the World Conservation Monitoring CentreDurio carinatus (Durian paya; restricted to peat swamps; commercial timber; also an important food resource within the peat swamp habitat for a wide range of frugivores, e.g., hornbills, tigers, gibbons)Tetramerista glabra (Punah; restricted to peat swamps; commercial timber; also an important food resource within the peat swamp habitat for a wide range of frugivores)Blackwater fish specialistsFrom the preliminary analysis of the fish fauna, 70% of the blackwater fish of Peninsular Malaysia occur in SEPPSF.Frog speciesPSF restricted species: Psuedobufo subasper and Rana baramica (in the Peninsula)b. Species endemic to SEPPSFBeta wasseri (an endemic fighting fish; occurs in shallow pools within the peat swamp forest)Betta tussyae (another endemic fighting fish; occurs in shallow pools within the peat swamp forest)Parosphromenus nagyi (Gouramies; occurs in shallow pools within the peat swamp forest adjacent to rivers)c. Other Species of SignificanceGlobally significant Flat-headed cat (fish-eating cat, riverine specialist, characteristic of peat-swamps) and otter species.Globally-threatened large mammals: leopards, bears, tigers; bearded pigs.Malayan Flying Fox. Both presence and roost have been clearly documented within SEPPSF Presence of viable population of False Gharial, Tomistoma schlegelli - listed as EN by the IUCN.Presence of viable population of 8 species of turtles and terrapins - listed in the IUCN and CITES lists.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
Non-sustainable logging, reclamation for agriculture and other forms of development is seriously threatening the swamp forests resulting in degradation in some areas. The Flying Foxes are favourite targets of hunters (DWNP, 1987).Eel farming on a large scale has been set up in the area and has posed as a significant threat to the forest, particularly from the water requirements of the farm, which is drawn entirely from the peat swamp forest. This has led to a drop in groundwater levels and subsequent flooding in the surrounding areas (Sebastian, 1998).Timber production from peat swamp forests in the state currently comes from stateland areas earmarked for conversion, however, based on current trends, these areas may soon be exhausted. In future, timber production from peat swamp forest will effectively be restricted to areas permanently gazetted as forest reserves (Sebastian, 1998).. Commercial logging in both the PFEs and Stateland forests - causing habitat fragmentation and loss of keystone species2. PSF conversion into other land uses - causing impact of different forms to the overall integrity of peat swamp complex; Agricultural schemes themselves posing a threat to the integrity of SEPPSF and its associated waterways where there is inadequate environmental management of the schemes. 3. Localised harvesting of target species for subsistence - The continued harvesting of certain key species will undoubtedly pose a threat to the overall species diversity. 4. Harvesting of target species for trade - Harvesting of certain target species might reduce local viable populations or more importantly, might reduce local viable populations of species that are already under threat.5. Deliberate Fires - Fires are a particularly dangerous threat within the peatland environment. They pose a direct destructive impact on natural areas or they could develop into a serious local and regional health hazards through air pollution.

Protected areas
The swamp forests of Pahang, Pekan, Nenasi, Resak, Rompin and Endau are classified as Forest Reserves (DWNP, 1987). About 87,000 ha of PSF cover in the SEP region is protected as PFEs; broken into 4 separate FRs - Pekan, Nenasi, Kedondong and Resak. The rest are all stateland forests, rivers and riverine areas.

Habitat and land use
(III) Vegetation TypeFreshwater alluvial swamp forests and seasonally flooded forests dominate the area in addition to peat swamp forests. Largely mixed PSF type with associated vegetation alluding to freshwater swamp forests, riverine vegetation, heath forests and lowland dipterocarp forests types.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Important Bird Areas factsheet: South-East Pahang peat swamp forest. Downloaded from on 02/03/2021.