Matang coast

Year of compilation: 2003

Site description
(I) Physical CharacteristicsThe Matang mangroves are a large expanse of mangrove forest (about 51 km of coastline and 13 km wide) stretching from Kuala Gula in the N to Bagan Panchor in the S. It represents the largest intact tract of mangrove forest with several semi-permanent lakes in Peninsular Malaysia and one of the last mangrove areas with all major habitats and forest types. More than 85% of the mangroves are tidal swamp being flooded almost daily to a wash only during the highest spring tides (Gan, 1995; Silvius et al., 1986). Major estuaries are Kuala Gula-Kuala Kelumpang, Kuala Selinsing-Kuala Sangga Besar, Kuala Larut-Kuala Jaha, Kuala Trong and Kuala Jarum Mas with width ranging from 2-4 km. Major rivers transecting Matang are Sungai Gula, Sungai Kelumpang, Sungai Selinsing, Sungai Sangga Besar, Sungai Sepetang, Sungai Jaha, Sungai Terung and Sungai Jarum Mas (Gan, 1995; Zul Mukhshar Bin Dato' Md. Shaari, 2002). The area is also reputed to be the best managed mangroves in the world.(II) Climatic ConditionsMatang mangroves experiences a warm humid climate with rainfall ranges from 2,540-2,794 mm in the mainland reserves and receding to 2,286-2,540 mm in the island reserves and even to 2,032-2,286 mm in the northern coastal section of Pulau Kelumpang and Pulau Gula Forest Reserves. The area experiences two monsoon, the north-east monsoon (October-March) and south-west monsoon (June-September), but do not appear to have much effect on Matang as it is shielded from the full force by Sumatra, Indonesia and Banjaran Titiwangsa in the peninsula (Gan, 1995).

Key biodiversity
The Matang Mangrove Forest Reserves is the most important staging sites for coastal migratory waterbirds and to a certain extent migrant forest birds along the W coast of Peninsular Malaysia. Over 150 species of birds have been recorded in surveys (Siti Hawa Yatim, 1995). In 1985/86, the peak count total of shorebirds numbered about 14,300 birds (Silvius et al., 1986). Current reassessment puts the peak figure at about 27,000 birds (Thompson, 1995). An estimated total of 43,000 to 85,000 individuals may make use of the area during migration (DWNP, 1987; Wells, 1972). The most important feeding and roosting areas for shorebirds are Pantai Panchor (16% of peak count), the southern mudflats of Pulau Pasir Hitam (4%), Sungai Larut estuarine mudflats (13%), Pulau Terong and Stork Lake II (19%), Pulau Kelumpang mudflats (14%), Pulau Kelumpang and Stork Lake I (12%), and Sungai Rubiah lagoon and mudflats (13%). Matang is the last remaining area in Peninsular Malaysia capable of supporting a viable breeding population of the highly threatened Milky Stork Mycteria cinerea (BirdLife International, 2001). The storks have been recorded breeding on two mangrove islands within the reserves, Pulau Kelumpang (also known as Stork Lake I, 255 ha) and Pulau Terong (Stork Lake II, 129 ha) (AWB 1989, Parish, 1985). The population was estimated at about 100 birds (DWNP, 1987) and on a steady decline. Matang is also believed to support 50% of the national population (150-200) of another threatened stork resident, the Lesser Adjutant Leptoptilos javanicus. The species has also been recorded breeding in the area (Scott, 1989). The Matang mangroves, prior to 1989, supported one of the largest breeding colonies of the Black-crowned Night-herons Nycticorax nycticorax globally, with an estimated 5,000-6,000 nests (Scott, 1989). The whole population of 20,000-40,000, which used to be in Pulau Kelumpang, has moved up 20 km north (Gan, 1995). The near threatened Asian Dowitcher Limnodromus semipalmatus has been recorded in Matang.

Non-bird biodiversity: The Matang mangroves and mudflats are important habitats for several terrestrial and marine mammals (Sabrina M. Shariff, 1984; Siti Hawa Yatim, 1984; Jasmi et al., 1991).(I) Globally threatened mammals (IUCN, 2002): VULNERABLE: Smooth Otter Lutrogale perspicillata; NEAR THREATENED: Long-tailed Macaque Macaca fascicularis, Oriental Small-clawed Otter Amblonyx cinereus, Pangolin Manis javanica; DATA DEFICIENT: Irrawaddy Dolphin Orcaella brevirostris, Bottle-nosed Dolphin Tursiops truncatus(II) Globally threatened reptiles (IUCN, 2002): None.(III) Globally threatened plants (IUCN, 2002): VULNERABLE: Intsia bijuga

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The Matang mangroves have economic importance for the local community. Aquaculture, cockle culture and other fisheries activities are the major income earner for the villagers. The mangroves and its birdlife face several threats in several forms (DWNP, 1987). These threats are listed below.1.Overexploitation of mangrove resources.2.Decrease in the availability of nesting sites for large waterbirds.3.Disturbance of Storklake-I and -II by crab catchers.4.Reclamation of mangrove forests.5.Depletion of pristine mangrove habitats.6.Oil pollution from the Straits of Malacca.7.Disturbance of breeding Milky Storks.8.The use of motorboats in place of sampans.9.Disturbance from the infrastructure associated with timber extraction.As a result of forestry practices, very few pristine mangrove areas remain which are suitable as nesting sites for storks and large herons. This may be one of the reasons for decreasing populations of large waterbirds in Matang especially the Milky Stork, which normally breeds in large colonies and therefore needs a substantial area of suitable nesting habitat (Scott, 1989). The current estimate of the Milky Stork population in the area is less than 50 individuals, with no successful breeding since 1997 (Siti Hawa Yatim, pers. comm.). Predation on chicks by resident Brahminy Kites Haliastur indus (Siti Hawa Yatim, pers. obs.) and a depletion of its prey base may have also further impact the population.

Protected areas
The Matang mangroves are made up of 19 independently gazetted Forest Reserves (108 compartments), which remain as State Government Reserves. It was created by Gazette Notification under the Forest Laws and managed by the State Forest Office, Perak, under the general supervision of the Director General of Forestry, Peninsular Malaysia (Gan, 1995).These reserves include 34,769 ha (80%) of productive forest (for harvesting mangrove timber) and 5,942 ha (20%) of unproductive forest (which are classified under. Virgin Jungle Reserve, Research Forest, Archeological Reserve, Bird Sanctuary (e.g. Kuala Gula), Ecotourism Forest, Educational Forest and Seed Stands). The Department of Wildlife and National Parks (DWNP) has an established field station in Kuala Gula, Matang.The Matang mangroves has been sustainably managed for wood production since its reservation in 1902. The first working plan was drawn up by D.S.P. Noakes in 1952 for the period 1950-1959. Subsequent revisions were made by R.G. Dixon, Mohd. Darus, Haron Abu Hassan and Gan Boon Keong for the periods 1960-1969, 1970-1979, 1980-1989 and 1990-1999 respectively. The current plan for 2000-2009 is yet to be finalised. These 10-year plans are primarily aimed at supplying quality wood for production of charcoal, firewood and poles on a sustainable yield basis. The plans provide detailed description of the resource, schedules for regulation of yield, harvesting and silvicultural operations, and areas for conservation and protection (Zul Mukhshar Bin Dato' Md. Shaari, 2002).

Habitat and land use
The main vegetation types of Matang (Zul Mukhshar Bin Dato' Md. Shaari, 2002; Silvius et al., 1986) are;"Bakau type" (Rhizophora spp.). More than 80% (32,746 ha) of the mangroves are mainly R. apiculata due to refforestation;"Api api-Perapat" type (Avicennia-Sonneratia). This type occurs mainly in the accreting mangrove zone. In some areas, Avicennia covers large areas of forest;"Berus type" (Bruguiera cylindrica), which occurs close to the coast mostly behind the Avicennia-Sonneratia type; "Lenggadai type" (B. parviflora); and"Tumu type" (B. gymnorhiza), which is the climax mangrove forest type, preceeding the inland forest.Tengar (Ceriops tagal), Berus Mata Buaya (B. hainesii), Teruntum (Lumnitzera spp.) and Nyireh Batu (Xylocarpus moluccensis) are uncommon, Merbau Ipil (Instia bijuga) and Nibong (Oncosperma tigillarium) presently occurs, only in patches but more commonly outside the reserves. Nyireh Bunga (X. granatum) can still be found in patches in all major forest types, usually consisting of older stands. However, due to forest harvesting, the major part of the forest is not higher than 10-20 m asl. The soil is basically mixed with a high percentage of clay, varies from compact blue clay, containing little or no organic matter, in the more recent deposits on the sea face, to the brown "mangrove loam", with a high proportion of partly decomposed organic matter and a varying amount of sand, in the centre of the islands and along the mainland boundary (Gan, 1995).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2022) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Matang coast. Downloaded from on 22/01/2022.