A fully grown, male Orangutan feasts on fruit in the safety of the Danum Valley Conservation Area in Borneo.

A fully grown, male Orangutan feasts on fruit in the safety of the Danum Valley Conservation Area in Borneo. Picture:  Laura Roberts

Leading researchers within the Faculty of Science and Engineering are continuing a successful partnership with a leading rainforest research programme in Borneo following a new £330,000 research grant.

The South East Asia Rainforest Research Partnership (SEARRP) has renewed its decades-long collaboration with Swansea University by signing a new five-year partnership agreement. SEARRP supports world-class environmental science, from its base at the world renowned Danum Valley Field Centre in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.

SEARRP science addresses some the major issues facing the conservation, management and restoration of tropical rainforests and landscapes of south east Asia.

Pictures: Swansea team working at the Danum Valley Field Centre, Malaysian Borneo

Professor Mary Gagen of Swansea University department of geography, project lead, comments:

“Forest science has always been a strong part of Swansea University’s environmental research and that is set to accelerate with the establishment of this new partnership agreement with SEARRP on tropical forest research.

Swansea has worked with SEARRP since its inception in the 1980s and that relationship has grown into a new phase, based not only around rainforest science but around environmental outreach and public engagement.

Despite many global pledges and declarations on forest protection global deforestation continues at an unsustainable pace. Sabah is a world-leader in developing forest policy which supports environmental conservation and we’re delighted to be cementing Swansea’s relationship with SEARRP as we enter the critical decade for turning the corner on halting global deforestation and protecting and preserving forest for future generations.”

Dr Glen Reynolds, the Director of SEARRP and post-doctoral research fellow at Swansea, said:

“Swansea academics and research students have delivered some of the most important and impactful science carried out through SEARRP.

Professor Rory Walsh has played a seminal role in improving our understanding of the climate and hydrology of tropical rainforests, catchment dynamics and issues around land-use change and soil erosion - work which has directly informed the conservation and management of Borneo’s forests.

Professor Neil Loader and Professor Mary Gagen’s research on long-term climate change using records from long-lived rainforest trees - particularly on the incidence of the severe droughts which are such important drivers of rainforest dynamics - continues to inform thinking around the possible impacts of Sabah’s changing climate.

I very much hope that signing this new agreement will be the start of an even more productive phase of the Swansea-SEARRP partnership.”

The new partnership agreement follows two National Geographic Grants; an Explorer Grant which supported Professor Gagen’s climate change research in Sabah and a recently awarded National Geographic Community Grant which will see Professor Gagen working in collaboration with SEARRP in Danum once more, to support the development of a community-driven conservation outreach and environmental education programme for Borneo’s lowland rainforest.

SEARRP also host undergraduate field courses at the Danum base, providing geography and biology students with hands-on experience of tropical forest research and direct insights into the threats facing tropical forests and how these can be mitigated.

Professor Mary Gagen has recently begun a one-year secondment to WWF-UK as Chief Advisor on Forests.

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