My research focuses on peat swamp forest regeneration after large-scale disturbance. Peat swamp forest, a tropical wet forest that grows on a thick layer of decaying organic material (peat), is a type of forest found primarily in Southeast Asia. These forests are seasonally flooded, and the soil is naturally acidic and nutrient-poor. The trees that grow in PSF are highly specialized, and most have extensive and intricate root systems designed to provide structural support, allowing the trees to grow in a relatively unstable environment. Walking through the PSF is truly an adventure, as you spend the majority of your time wading through tannin-stained water. When you do reach “dry” ground, you often fall up to your knees (if you’re lucky, but sometimes to your waist!) in sinkholes.
PSF and tropical rainforests in general, worldwide, are quickly being cleared for oil palm and other large scale agriculture. The research site where I did my Masters work, known as the Mega-Rice Project area, was cleared in the late 1990s for rice agriculture. The soil drained and became highly susceptible to large-scale fires, which decimate milions of hectares of forest each year. My work focuses on the role of natural processes, specifically seed dispersal, in PSF regeneration after fires. Seed dispersal in the PSF is done mainly by birds and bats, but primates such as gibbons and orang-utans also play a role. I’m currently also working on a paper examining how small-scale topography changes on the forest floor affects species distribution. Since I’ve started working with GPOCP, I anticipate doing much more work on the conservation management side- and I’ll be working to publish that work when possible to contribute to the greater conservation community.