In 1973, old-growth forests covered 55.8 Mha (76%) of Borneo’s land area (Gaveau et al., 2014). An estimated 18.7 Mha (34%) were cleared between 1973 and 2015, with 14.4 Mha in Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan) and 4.2 Mha in Malaysian Borneo (Sabah and Sarawak), respectively (David et al., 2016)
The total area developed as industrial plantations reached 9.2 Mha in 2015 (minimum size of a plantation = 90 ha; max = 560,000 ha; mean = 4,600 ha) or 12% of Borneo’s land area. More than a half of these plantations (4.8 Mha) were planted between 2005 and 2015.
Approximately 7.0 Mha (76%) of the total area of industrial plantations in 2015 (9.2 Mha), were old-growth forest in 1973, of which 4.5 Mha had been planted rapidly, i.e. within five years of forest clearance
In addition, have been reported that approximately, 83,362 ha of forest have been permanently flooded by the creation of the hydroelectric power dams of Bakun and Murum between 2011 and 2014 in Sarawak (Sovacool & Bulan, 2013; Keong, 2005)
This very rare species is found only in dipterocarp forest in Borneo. This fungus has an interesting structure/ fruiting body that can absorb water such as sponges in wet, fresh and humid habitats as described by Desjardin, 2011. This shows that this fungus needs its own habitat that may exist in the Borneo archipelago where its population is limited.
The species was first described scientifically online in May 2011 in the journal Mycologia, authored by American mycologists Dennis E. Desjardin, Kabir Peay, and Thomas Bruns. The description was based on two specimens collected by Bruns in 2010 in Lambir Hills National Park, in Sarawak, Malaysia.
The dipterocarp-dominated forest in Borneo is a natural habitat for Spongiforma squarepantsii and deforestation for the agriculture activities can destroy local biodiversity including this very rare species. Such cycles have converted millions of hectares of old-growth and selectively logged forest to degraded scrublands (Hoscilo et al., 2011; Guhardja, 2000). Some of the remaining forests were converted to industrial plantations (mainly oil-palm and pulpwood) (Abood et al., 2014; Wicke et al., 2011), small-scale agriculture and mining operations (Brearley, 2007), while some have been flooded by dams (Sovacool & Bulan, 2013; Keong, 2005).
Spongiforma squarepantsii is only known from Lambir National Park in Sarawak, Malaysia, with a single collection from 2010, about 0.5 km from road on trail to 52-hectare long-term forest dynamics research plot, 4u209N, 113u509E (Desdarjin et. al., 2011). Since 2011 until now there are no new published records, but there is an unpublished and unconfirmed record from Terengganu, Peninsular Malaysia by Su-See Lee. Another species in the genus S. thailandica was published in 2010, collected from Thailand.
Only found in Sarawak in the dipterocarp-dominated forest of the Lambir Hills in Sarawak, Malaysia (Desjardin et al., 2011). There is unpublished and unconfirmed record from Peninsular Malaysia by Su-See Lee.
This species found in 2008 at Lambir Hills National Park, about 0.5 km from road on trail to 52-hectare long-term forest dynamics research plot. It is very limited reports, and understanding of this species, it’s tough to assess the trend. The greater part of natural habitat within its distribution Sarawak has been lost during the last 100 years; due to logging and oil palm plantation. The continued decline of natural habitat suggest that this species is deterioration.
Population Trend: Decreasing
Spongiforma squarepantsii is a solitary, epigeous on ground under undetermined dipterocarp trees, known only found from one National Park in Sarawak at Lambir Hills National Park. Lambir has the same habitat of plant community and soil type (per com Annya Ambrose SFC employer). There is a possible unpublished and unconfirmed record from Peninsular Malaysia by Lee Sue See, because of its distinction and apparent unique and uncommon habitat estimated that there are up to 50 additional localities each with 4-5 mature individuals, <250 total.
According to new maps of industrial logging, oil palm, and planted forest concessions compiled and published by Global Forest Watch, these concessions often overlap with sensitive intact forests (Petersen et.al., 2015). This situation has reduce the population of dipterocarp forest and the natural habitat of Spongiforma squarepantsii in Borneo.
The National Park is protected area however this species might be threaten by agriculture activities surrounding national park (Yamashita et. al., 2018) and the main road construction. It is expected that road infrastructure and road transport will also be effected favorable habitat of this species.
There are currently no conservation efforts or actions taken in the sites. Conservation actions are needed for this very rare species, especially to protect the habitat of the dipterocarp growth forests. Agriculture, roads construction and logging activities in mature forests should be controlled to protect this species particularly in Borneo.
Study on this species favorable habitat need to be investigated and well as monitoring of species in other locations.
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