Affiliations 

  • 1 Centre for Tropical Environmental and Sustainability Science, College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia
  • 2 School of Environmental and Geographical Sciences, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, Jalan Broga, Semenyih, Selangor, Malaysia
PLoS ONE, 2019;14(9):e0221947.
PMID: 31532810 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0221947

Abstract

The Heart of Borneo initiative has promoted the integration of protected areas and sustainably-managed forests across Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei. Recently, however, member states of the Heart of Borneo have begun pursuing ambitious unilateral infrastructure-development schemes to accelerate economic growth, jeopardizing the underlying goal of trans-boundary integrated conservation. Focusing on Sabah, Malaysia, we highlight conflicts between its Pan-Borneo Highway scheme and the regional integration of protected areas, unprotected intact forests, and conservation-priority forests. Road developments in southern Sabah in particular would drastically reduce protected-area integration across the northern Heart of Borneo region. Such developments would separate two major clusters of protected areas that account for one-quarter of all protected areas within the Heart of Borneo complex. Sabah has proposed forest corridors and highway underpasses as means of retaining ecological connectivity in this context. Connectivity modelling identified numerous overlooked areas for connectivity rehabilitation among intact forest patches following planned road development. While such 'linear-conservation planning' might theoretically retain up to 85% of intact-forest connectivity and integrate half of the conservation-priority forests across Sabah, in reality it is very unlikely to achieve meaningful ecological integration. Moreover, such measure would be exceedingly costly if properly implemented-apparently beyond the operating budget of relevant Malaysian authorities. Unless critical road segments are cancelled, planned infrastructure will fragment important conservation landscapes with little recourse for mitigation. This likelihood reinforces earlier calls for the legal recognition of the Heart of Borneo region for conservation planning as well as for enhanced tri-lateral coordination of both conservation and development.

* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.