Ecological Land Use Planning and Sustainable Management of Urban and Sub-urban Green Areas in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia

von Oktober 2003 bis November 2006


Leitung: Prof. Dr. Renate Bürger-Arndt

Bearbeitung/Kontakt: Andy Russel Immit Mojiol

Förderer: Public Services Department (JPA), Malaysia

Mitwirkende Institutionen: University Malaysia Sabah (UMS)
Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK)
World Wide Fund – Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Projektabhängige Publikationen

RUSSEL, A. (2006): Ecological Landuse Planning and Sustainable Management of Urban and Sub-urban Green Areas in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Dissertation. Cuvillier Verlag. Göttingen, 307 pp.


Landuse planning, Urban forestry, Urban green management


Malaysia has been identified as one of the world’s mega diverse countries being extremely rich in biodiversity. Tropical rainforests, the oldest and most diverse ecosystems on earth, still cover an average 60 % of the country (Soepadmo, 1998). The rainforests are estimated to contain about 12,500 species of flowering plants, and more than 1,100 species of ferns and fern allies (MSET, 1998). The dominating plant family is dipterocarp trees many of which produce commercial timber being native to Borneo as well as to Peninsular Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippine, Thailand etc. Large portions of these species are endemic and unique to the Malaysian archipelago.

There is also great diversity in fauna, including about 300 species of wild mammals, 700-750 species of birds, 350 species of reptiles, 165 species of amphibians and more than 300 species of freshwater fish. Endemism in flora and fauna is high. As with other cultures, it is assumed that much of the traditional knowledge about these flora and fauna are heritage of the many traditional societies and communities that are dependent on them for their livelihood (Soepadmo, 1998).

Unfortunately, much of Sabah’s natural vegetation has been altered and degraded due to unsustainable and destructive human practices. Their existence continues to be threatened. Certain forest types are in danger of being totally eradicated from Sabah, while many plant species will likely disappear before they have ever been described. The fragmentation of natural forests also threatens the viability of various wildlife populations. The State is undergoing rapid development and the transformation of rural areas into urban is also accelerating. Many green areas are lost which causes serious threats to biodiversity in the country, because green areas play a very important role in buffering negative impacts on conservation areas.

The objective of this study is to provide the information for developing a concept for sustainable urban green management in Kota Kinabalu district as well as to judge the ecological sustainability and to describe the importance of urban green area for the public. A focus is placed on the terrestrial and aerial inventory of the natural resources, including trees, birds, and biotopes. Furthermore, the study tries to explore the perception and attitude of local people, concerning urban forests and green areas. It also explores and investigates the possibilities for implementing an urban green management concept.

The terrestrial data collection accordingly comprises of four fields: (1) tree inventory/survey, (2) bird survey/observation, (3) public perception survey, and (4) the mapping and classifying of urban forest functions.

i) For the purpose of tree inventory, four common vegetation stands have been analysed for comparison. The stands included: secondary re-growth area, mixed-horticulture area, mangroves area and town tree stands. 32 sampling plots of 2048 m² each have been established for vegetation recording data. A complete inventory of tree vegetation (dbh ≥ 10 cm) was carried out and the following parameters were assessed: tree species, dbh (diameter at breast height, 1.3 m above the ground), tree height, stand density, floristic composition and regeneration potential. The data was analysed using Statistica 6.0 and Microsoft Office Excel 2003 to get the descriptive and frequency table.

ii) The data for bird analysis were gathered from literatures, reports and survey plots. For the survey plots, the same 32 sampling points were used as for the preceding tree inventory. At each sample point, every bird species observed was recorded with a distance of 10 meter to 100 meters. The bird abundance was analysed using distance sampling software (Distance sampling 3.5) to estimate the density and population size. Additionally, when moving between points on a grid line, the characterization of birdlife habitat types were recorded and located by Global Position System (GPS). Potentially rich birdlife habitat areas and bird risk areas were then mapped all over the district.

iii) The public perception survey was conducted by distributing questionnaires and conducting interviews to the town public and village community randomly. A total of 450 questionnaires have been distributed and important issues were evaluated: (1) the demographic characteristics, (2) the perception of people concerning the importance and benefits of urban green areas (3) the opinion concerning conservation issues, (4) perceptions and opinions concerning tree management, and (5) perception of problems that threaten the forest today. The questionnaires were analysed using Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) software in a descriptive analysis, frequency table, and percentage.

iv) Biotope mapping and classification of urban forest functions – Aerial photographs (2000) and SPOT satellite images (2002) have been used to classify the type of biotopes and land covers in Kota Kinabalu district. A set of biotope mapping classification was produced and on-site ground truthing was performed with the help of topographic map and geographic position system (GPS) to distinguish the land cover. The information gathered from the field then was analysed and cross-checked to perform the ‘functional value’ of urban forests in Kota Kinabalu. The information includes terrain data, slope data, soil erosion risk, flow of rivers, creeks and streams, land use conflicts, and other potential areas. For the purpose of future management, a set of criteria has been developed to map and classify each function of urban forests. The mapping analysis was done using Geographic Information System (GIS) software e.g. ArcView GIS Version 3.1, Erdas Imagine 8.6 and ArcInfo.

From the research, the following results were obtained:
The tree species diversity and stand structure of urban forest, as a two criteria for stability and sustainability of the land use system. Overall species diversity found, in secondary re-growth stand as indicated by the Shannon index of diversity (E) recorded that a value of 0.87, in mixed horticulture stand recorded with 0.83, in mangrove stand 0.74 and in vegetated town stand recorded with 0.73. The primary conclusion from this study is that Kota Kinabalu has a relatively rich diversity of tree flora above 10 cm DBH. With up to 88 tree species in secondary re-growth area, 95 species in mixed horticulture and 23 species in mangrove with dbh ≥ 10 cm per ha, biodiversity is much higher than in the natural forests.

The total basal area of secondary re-growth was 28.4 m² haˉ¹. In comparison to similar studies in Sabah (26 - 43 m² haˉ¹) it is almost as good as in the natural forests which indicates a forest-like character of the stands. While in mixed horticulture, mangrove and town stands, the basal area was measured in with 14.5 m² haˉ¹, 11.6 m² haˉ¹ and 1.5 m² haˉ¹ respectively, a value that underlines the optical impression of a sparsely stocked stand. Diameter distribution in secondary re-growth stands follows the ideal inverse J-shape function, which indicates a good form of forest structural stability. The distribution of natural regeneration shows the abundance of 260 species per ha, ensuring a sustainable use of the stands for the future.

In secondary re-growth stands, Hevea brasiliensis form the abundant species with the highest Important Value Index (IVI) of (20.9) followed by Acacia mangium (17.2), Macaranga tanarius (13.2), Artocarpus anisophyllus (13.2) and Alstonia angustilobia (12.5). While in mixed-horticulture stands, Acacia mangium form the highest IVI value of (33.8) followed by Acacia auriculiformis (20.1), Hevea brasiliensis (14.3), Mangifera indica (11.6) and Cocos nucifera (10.7). In mangrove stands, Rhizophora apiculata is the dominant species with the highest IVI value of (63.8), followed by other most common species which are Rhizophora mucronata (45.3), Acacia mangium (40.1), Nypa fruticans (26.3) and Bruguiera parviflora (15.7). While in town stand, most of the trees are planted tree, specially for ornamentals, highways and greening purposes. The dominant species with highest value of IVI ranked with Pterocarpus indicus (87.2) followed by Veitchia merillii (15.2), Delonix regia (14.5), Roystonea regia (9.9) and Tabebuia rosea (8.7).

For bird results and analysis, the most bird category was found in Kota Kinabalu is Waders (14.07%); secondly are Herons, Storks and Bitterns, (12.59%); thirdly are Raptors (8.15%) and Bulbuls (7.41%) respectively. The high presence of Waders and Herons category suitable to most of the area in Kota Kinabalu is because the Kota Kinabalu district is intact with coastal sea and also some areas with swamps or mudflats which are associated with mangrove area. Most of the birds observed in Kota Kinabalu are resident birds with 66% of the total overall birds survey; whereas migratory bird consists of 32% and 2% for both resident and migratory bird.

The analysis of bird abundance using distance sampling estimated a population density of 14 birds per km². Its density lies between a range of 11.53 – 17.25 birds per km² within 95% confidence interval. Results show that a total population of 3526 individuals covered an area of about 280 km².

Potential birdlife habitats were classified into classes of rich birdlife areas which including: secondary re-growth areas; coastal mangroves; coastal areas; rice fields; swamp areas; grasslands & scrub; riverside areas; plantations; hill vegetation; and pond, lakes & pools. The potential birdlife habitats then were derived and mapped using GIS software.

The presence of birdlife in the urban environment is a testimony to the quality of the environment. It is an indicator that some balance between the natural and the built environment could be achieved. To enhance the birdlife, it would be necessary to consider of three particular types of bird areas, namely:

• Natural areas which are currently rich in birdlife and may act as “reservoirs” for populating urban parks. These reservoirs do not necessarily need to be situated in the urban areas but it must be possible to connect them to urban parks via vegetated corridors through which the birds can move safely.
• Parks and green spaces where improvements would be of immediate benefit to the bird population. These include public parks where the present habitat is not particularly suitable for birds; and
• To enhance vegetated corridors along which birds may move between the reservoirs and to other areas in between. These corridors can correspond to areas of low density housing, with tree-lined avenues and large gardens, or carefully-planted reserves alongside roads, railways, rivers, electricity lines, etc.

The public perception analysis indicates that the major ethnicity background of the respondents in Kota Kinabalu is Kadazandusun. They form the biggest community among others ethnic with a total population of 519,800 in 2005.

The town people appreciate the importance and benefits of trees to them for several reasons, which include: helping to reduce warmth and heat from the sunlight, beautification and aesthetic value, recreation opportunities, obstruction of rubbish and other annoyances (e.g. noise and dust pollution). The villagers gave additional views. They opined that trees provide clean and fresh air, provide clean water, food sources and important forest products.

The town community also indicated their reasons for visiting the forest, which are; walking and sightseeing, jogging, hiking and walking for sports, picnicking and other informal outdoor recreation activities, and collecting plants.

The village communities expressed, with 50%, that their usage of forest resources concentrated on non-wood forest products including wild fruit, rubber, rattan, root tuber and dammar. Another 32% mentioned use for medicinal purpose and 12% for poles, dyes and firewood, 4% sago, and 1% wildlife. Few respondents also expressed that they took several forest products to sell them in the open market to gain income e.g. Garcinia hombroniana (akob-akob), Bambusa sp (Bamboo tuber), Parkia pinnata (Petai-petai), Zingiber sp (Wild Ginger) and Eurycoma longifolia (Tonkat Ali) etc.

In line with the statement of nature protection and conservation, about 89.5% of the towns’ respondents and 82% of the village respondents agree with this statement. They opined that the government should conserve and protect the remaining natural environment, and that there should be an educational and awareness program to educate people about the importance of forest to the environments. While some of the respondents also expressed their interest in helping the government, over third-forth explained that they were interested to be involved in decision making concerning conservation effort in their areas. The analysis further reveals that respondents with substantially higher levels of interest are female respondents.

The respondents also expressed that the problem threatening the forest today are unsustainable land use practices and expansion, with 38% opined these as the main threat. Unsustainable land use practices such as slash-and-burn agriculture has caused much of Kota Kinabalu surface and natural resources depleted. The second problem opined is river pollution. Most of the peoples in villages in Kota Kinabalu are river dependent, these includes Kg. Kitabu, Kg. Kokol, Kg. Kibambangan, Kg. Babagon and Kg. Kiansam. If forest areas were cleared, the silt or clay sediments from the bare surface will be washed into the river with heavy rainfall. They will directly pollute and increase the sediment in the river, thus making the water unsafe for drinking. Others view suggested that, cutting of trees in the hilly region will affect the physical structure of the soil, which in the end increases the susceptibility to landslide problem. Other minor problems expressed were the problems of deforestation, forest fire, and decreasing of wildlife through hunting activities.

The last chapter is dedicated to the analysis of biotope - land use types and mapping of urban forest functions. The result indicates that the land cover in Kota Kinabalu can be categorised into nine major important classes which include: settlements and associated non-agricultural areas; horticultural lands; improve permanent pasture; grasslands; croplands; tree, palm and other permanent crops; forest lands; swamps, marshlands and wetlands forests, and unused lands. Each class then subdivided into subclasses that together formed of 43 different land use type, and digitize and mapped using GIS software.

From the classifying of urban forest functions, the analysis reveals the important functions derived from urban forest in Kota Kinabalu. These include; bird habitat function; nature conservation function; protection function; recreation function and utility function. A set of criteria was produced for each function as a baseline for planning and management decisions. All the forest functions were mapped using GIS software, and later used as guidelines for management decisions concerning urban green of Kota Kinabalu.

Based on the overall results, the concept for sustainable management in tropical urban green areas requires appropriate measures to guarantee control of the development. In order to cope with environmental problems and to prevent new ones, planning with foresight is necessary. The overall goal is to safeguard the capacity of the ecosystem. That means the complex interrelationship of all natural resources such as plants, animals species, human intervention, soil, water with their vast physical, chemical and biological processes should be considered in the early planning processes.

Regions of high risk will need to be excluded from development or to be developed with particular care and restrictions. These areas are: hilly land areas, streams and rivers, scenic landscape areas and potential wildlife areas. Moreover, the establishment of a policy and legislative framework is essential in order to ensure that land use plans and recommendations will be implemented.

It is a great concern to motivate people in all aspects of the management of natural resources. Local communities can play a critical role in achieving a success of conservation efforts. It is important to help the local people to put awareness on the environmental influence and vital role of the forests. They should understand the importance of safeguarding the ecosystems, habitats and species of both flora and fauna. Public support and involvement of the local people should be sought through all available media and include rural and urban people, decision makers, school teachers and kids.

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