Gunung Mulu National Park - MALAYSIA

Brief Description

Important both for its high biodiversity and for its karst features, Gunung Mulu National Park, on the island of Borneo in the State of Sarawak, is the most studied tropical karst area in the world. The 52,864-ha park contains seventeen vegetation zones, exhibiting some 3,500 species of vascular plants. Its palm species are exceptionally rich, with 109 species in twenty genera noted. The park is dominated by Gunung Mulu, a 2,377 m-high sandstone pinnacle. At least 295 km of explored caves provide a spectacular sight and are home to millions of cave swiftlets and bats. The Sarawak Chamber, 600 m by 415 m and 80 m high, is the largest known cave chamber in the world.

Justification for Inscription

Criteria (vii), (viii), (ix) and (x): The concentration of caves in Mulu's Melinau Formation with its geomorphic and structural characteristics is an outstanding feature which allows a greater understanding of Earth's history. The caves of Mulu are important for their classic features of underground geomorphology, demonstrating an evolutionary history of more than 1.5 million years. One of the world's finest examples of the collapse process in Karstic terrain can be also found. GMNP provides outstanding scientific opportunities to study theories on the origins of cave faunas. With its deeply-incised canyons, wild rivers, rainforest-covered mountains, spectacular limestone pinnacles, cave passages and decorations, Mulu has outstanding scenic values. GMNP also provides significant natural habitat for a wide range of plant and animal diversity both above and below ground. It is botanically-rich in species and high in endemism, including one of the richest sites in the world for palm species.

Long Description

Gunung Mulu National Park on the island of Borneo protects a wide range of natural phenomena. With an altitudinal range from 28m above sea level to the 2,377 m summit of Gunung Mulu, the park has 17 vegetation zones, primarily lowland rainforest (40% of the area) and montane rainforest (20% of the area). Some 3,500 species of vascular plants have been recorded including a high number of endemics found on limestone substrates. The park is considered to be one of the richest sites in the world for palms with 109 species of 20 genera identified. 80 species of mammal and 270 species of bird (including 24 Borneon endemics) have been recorded. The cave fauna, including many trogloditic species, number over 200. The area also has many species of reptile (55), amphibian (76), fish (48) and invertebrate (more than 20,000). The park also supports huge bat colonies (3 million wrinkled-lipped freetail bats inhabit Deer Cave alone) and cave swiflets (several million in one cave).

The park is not only important for this high biodiversity but also for its karst features. There are at least 295 km of explored caves including some of the largest in the world. A range of cave types at different levels exist due to uplift during the late Pliocene and early Pleistocene. The caves, concentrated in the Melinau limestone formation and on Gunung Api, are estimated to be at least 2-3 million years old. Sarawak Chamber, which is 600 m by 415 m and 80 m high, is the largest known cave chamber in the world. There are some exceptional decorated speleothems with spectacular examples of argonite and calcite needles. Another outstanding karst feature in Gunung Mulu National Park is the 'pinnacles', 50 m high sharp blades of rock that project through the rainforest canopy.

In sum, the park protects a substantial area of Borneo's primary tropical forest containing a high diversity of biota including many Borneon endemics and threatened species. The site also has a high concentration of large cave passages and chambers which in turn provide a major wildlife spectacle in terms of millions of cave swiftlets and bats. The area is roadless and has no permanent residents. Local Penans retain traditional hunting rights within the park.

No comments: