An introduction to the unique environment of Tasik Chini: Current threats and attempts to restore an endangered indicator species

Abstract:

Tasik Chini and Tasik Bera are the only two large natural freshwater lakes in Peninsular Malaysia with a similar hydrological cycle of alternating flood and drought. Two decades ago, Chini was famous for its sheets of blooming lotuses however environmental change within the lake and its surrounding catchment during recent decades has led to the expansion of an invasive plant species, Cabomba furcate and a decline in many aquatic plants, including the famous lotus blooms. Among the disappearing species, Utricularia punctata is a carnivorous aquatic plant that captures microscopic prey such as water fleas with its small but highly sophisticated, bladder-like traps. It was previously recorded from Tasik Bera, Tasik Chini and Sungai Kota Tinggi, but was found to be exterminated from the latter two sites during field surveys in 2009. U. punctata is a sensitive indicator species which prefers oligotrophic black waters, hence was one of the first species to disappear when Chini experienced environmental changes. This talk will describe recent conservation work carried out by the Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) botany team to restore populations of U. punctata in Tasik Chini as part of wider efforts to rehabilitate the biodiversity of Tasik Chini. The talk will also demonstrate education tools developed to raise awareness among local communities and various stakeholders to ensure the long-term protection of rare species and the unique habitat of Chini. A short hands-on session on the key identification features of U. punctata and C. furcata will also be demonstrated with live plants.

Speaker’s Profile:

Miss Chew Min Yee graduated with Bachelor of Science (Forestry) from Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) and works in FRIM herbarium since 2005. She involves in the conservation of plant species in Tasik Chini since 2014. Currently, Miss Chew is working on the rewilding of U. punctata into Tasik Chini as a model of threatened aquatic species conservation in the wetland.