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LAR 5400

Landscape Ecology


Take Home Final Exam         January 2016

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Question 1:

Malaysia ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1994, and was the 65th country to do so. Alongside its obligation under the CBD, Malaysia has been promoting biodiversity conservation as a primary part of sustainable development, a policy theme of the Seventh and Eighth Malaysia Plans spanning 1996-2005. Within that period, a national policy on biodiversity conservation has also been adopted. Malaysia advocates a development path that emphasizes conservation while maintaining economic development. Despite advocating such a development strategy, the challenges ahead for conserving and protecting the total biodiversity of Malaysia remain serious. The term biodiversity was created only in the late 1980s. It is an abbreviation for “biological diversity”. Biodiversity combines the concepts of plants and animal as genetic resources, the diversity of species and the habitats in which they live, in one term. The present usage of the term is that biodiversity is the totality and variety of living organisms on earth. Malaysia has a great diversity of ecosystems. Most studies on the terrestrial ecosystems in Malaysia had been focused on the forests, as Malaysia was covered almost completely by forest about 100 years ago and also because timber from the forests were important economically. The 1997 Assessment of Biological Diversity in Malaysia classified forest ecosystems into two general types: Terrestrial/Dryland Forest and Wetlands Forest. This takes into consideration, factors other than altitude, like substrate type, and climate, to be representative of Malaysia’s forest ecosystems (Biodiversity in Malaysia Booklet, 2006).

Malaysia is one of twelve mega-diversity countries in the world in where rich species and ecosystem diversities are recognized. The species variety and endemism of Malaysia is of major global importance, including tropical lowlands, mangroves, peat and montane forests as well as its marine Eco regions (The Sulu-Sulawesi Marine Eco-region and the Andaman Sea).

FOREST ECOSYSTEMS: TERRESTRIAL/DRYLAND FOREST:  Lowland Dipterocarp Forest, Hill Dipterocarp Forest, Mixed Dipterocarp Forest • Upper Dipterocarp Forest, Montane Oak Forest, Montane Ericaceous Forest, - including Sub-alpine Forest • Heath Forest, Forest on Limestone , Forest on Ultra basic Soil, Forest on Quartz Ridges , White Meranti-Gerutu Seasonal Forest, Schima-Bamboo Forest. WETLAND FOREST, Freshwater/Riverine Forest: Riparian Forest, Freshwater Swamp, Gelam Swamp Forest, Peat Swamp Forest. Estuarine/Coastal Forest: Mangrove Swamp Forest, Nipah Swamp (Biodiversity in Malaysia Booklet, 2006).

There are many ecological services taken place in forests. Forests regulate local and global climate, improve weather events, regulate the hydrological cycle, protect watersheds and their vegetation, water flows and soils, and provide a vast store of genetic information much of which has yet to be uncovered. Scientists debate the linkages between biological diversity and ecological services. Those who believe in a strong link argue that any ecosystem, forests included, cannot cope with stresses and shocks if the diversity of the system has been reduced. Others argue that a majority of species are 'redundant' in the sense that their removal would not impair ecosystem functioning. On balance, it seems very likely that uniform systems are more vulnerable: diversity matters for ecosystem performance (Mooney et al. 1995; Holling et al, 1995).

The tropical rain forests of Malaysia constitute the core of biodiversity in Malaysia. The forests are a unique natural heritage which has evolved over 130 million years, resulting in a very rich flora and fauna. Besides the thousands of tree species, the forests are also the habitats of the animal life found within the forests. This includes 600 species of birds, 286 species of mammals, 140 species of snakes, and 80 species of lizards and myriads of insects and other smaller organisms. Malaysia’s forests had been and continue to be of great economic importance for its development. Timber from the forests had been a major income earner in Malaysia in the 1960s till the 1990s and played a critical role in Malaysia’s economic development. Part of the forest lands in the lowlands suitable for agriculture was converted for rubber and oil palm plantations in the last few decades. In recent years, the land use pattern has stabilized and very little new forest land is being open up. There is now a much greater emphasis on sustainable forest management so that the forest resources will be available for future generations. Besides timber, there are also other non-timber forest products, such as gaharu, gums and resins which are collected and traded but they are economically of much lower value compared with timber. Malaysia’s forests also play an important role in maintaining the ecological balance in the environment and hence helping to prevent natural disasters, such as floods and landslides. It also plays a mitigating role in natural disasters (Biodiversity in Malaysia Booklet, 2006).

As economic development and urbanization continue on a global scale, biodiversity faces risks from continued environmental degradation, pollution, and overuse of natural resources. Scientists believe that preservation of ecosystems is vital for sustaining biodiversity and ensuring a vibrant environment for coming generations. The Government of Malaysia formulated a National Biological Diversity Policy (NPBD), which was launched in April 1998. This reiterated Malaysia’s vision “To transform Malaysia into a world center of excellence in conservation, research and utilization of tropical biological diversity by the year 2020”. The NPBP focuses on using environmental resources in a sustainable manner and emphasizes the importance of local and indigenous communities in helping to conserve the environment, and that they should reap financial rewards from sustainable environmental development. The policy includes 15 strategies for effective management of biodiversity: 1. Improve the Scientific Knowledge Base, 2. Enhance Sustainable Utilization of the Components of Biological Diversity, 3. Develop a Centre of Excellence in Industrial Research in Tropical Biological Diversity, 4. Strengthen the Institutional Framework for Biological Diversity Management, 5. Strengthen and Integrate Conservation Programs, 6. Integrate Biological Diversity Considerations into Sectoral Planning Strategies, 7. Enhance Skill, Capabilities and Competence, 8. Encourage Private Sector Participation, 9. Review Legislation to Reflect Biological Diversity Needs, 10. Minimize Impacts of Human Activities on Biological Diversity, 11. Develop Policies, Regulations, Laws and Capacity Building on Biosafety, 12. Enhance Institutional and Public Awareness, 13. Promote International Cooperation and Collaboration, 14. Exchange of Information, 15. Establish Funding Mechanisms (MOSTE (1998), Biodiversity in Malaysia Booklet, 2006).

Malaysia has established a network of protected areas for the conservation of biological diversity. Some of these permanent reserved forests, national parks, wildlife reserves and sanctuaries, nature reserves, bird sanctuaries and marine parks have been established as early as the 1930s. The forests of Malaysia constitute the largest areas of natural land ecosystems remaining in Malaysia. As such, it is an important source of biodiversity. About 60% of the Malaysia’s land area is forested. The National Forestry Act (1984) has established permanent reserved forest located in different parts of the country. The National Forestry Policy was revised in 1992 to take into account the importance of biological diversity conservation and the sustainable use of genetic resources as well as the role of local communities in forest development. Malaysia has about 14.4 million ha of permanent reserved forests. These are managed and classified under four broad categories. 1. Production forest - areas that are managed so that they sustainably supply forest produce for domestic use and for export, 2. Protection forest - areas that are managed to ensure favorable climatic and physical conditions of the country, the safeguarding of water resources, soil fertility, environmental quality, conservation of biological diversity, and minimization of damage by floods and erosion of rivers, 3. Research and Education forest - areas for research, education and conservation of biological diversity, 4. Amenity forest - for recreation, ecotourism and promoting public awareness in forestry. In the effort to protect and safeguard various forest and ecological types, the Forestry Department had set aside pockets of virgin forests within the permanent forest estates that would serve as permanent nature reserves and natural arboreta. Since its inception in the 1950s, a total of 135 virgin jungle reserves (VJR) covering 113,444 ha have been established in Malaysia. No disturbances such as logging or harvesting are allowed in VJRs. They are primarily for research purposes and for their intrinsic ecological value. They also act as ecological benchmarks of the original vegetation as well as a genetic reservoir of species for harvested forests. (Biodiversity in Malaysia Booklet, 2006).

Sustainable forest management is recognized to be a concrete means of applying the Ecosystem Approach to forest ecosystems. The two concepts, sustainable forest management and the ecosystem approach, aim at promoting conservation and management practices which are environmentally, socially and economically sustainable, and which generate and maintain benefits for both present and future generations. Generally speaking, the goal of forest conservation has historically not been met when, in contrast with land use changes; driven by demand for food, fuel and profit. It is necessary to recognized and promote for better forest governance more strongly given the importance of forest in meeting basic human needs in the future and maintaining ecosystem and biodiversity as well as addressing climate change mitigation and adaptation goal. Such support must be joined with financial motivations for government of developing countries and greater governance role for local government, civil society, private sector and NGOs on behalf of the “communities”.


Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. Biodiversity in Malaysia Booklet, First published 2006. Retrieved From:

Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia. Forestry Annual Report 2014. Retrieved From:

Forestry Department Peninsular Malaysia. Biodiversity. Retrieved From:

Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (MOSTE), 1998. National policy on biological diversity. Retrieved From:

Question 2:

Rivers and water are valuable natural resources for human life, the environment and national development. Water plays an essential role in people’s lives and has long been recognized as one of humanity’s most important natural resources. Indeed, the allure of water is powerful and universal. The unique location of rivers at the interface between water and the land initiated the evolution of human society along the riverfront (Dong, 2004). In Malaysia, the extended growth of urban areas is also a sign of the healthy Malaysian economy. The rapid development and urbanization over decades caused the Malaysian government to start including many waterfront areas in future development with the focus on more recreational use, while private property developers concentrated more on mixed-use development. To date, interest in waterfront property is booming even when offered at high prices, as people want to live close to the water for recreation and aesthetic reasons (Yassin, 2012).

The significant value of waterfront makes it imperatives for us to be very careful in design, develop and manage waterfront projects, because, it is shaping and reflecting the image of the city and providing a linkage to the outside world for social and economic interaction. Therefore, in waterfronts’ development, several main strategies can be listed to assist in develop and design waterfronts in Malaysia with conservation of heritage urban fabrics to develop the abandonment waterfront and improve the social, economic and physical conditions of the old parts of cities. Mixed land development between heritage and new buildings, and between different activities including recreation, commercial, housing and so on, to provide space and activities for all kinds of people in different times for economic and aesthetic purposes. In other hand, reflection of culture, identity and characteristics of the society on waterfront to upgrade the city image as an attractive link to outside world and promote cities for international tourism. The local government should be more stressed on implement sustainable development in waterfront projects to protect the environment and reduce causes of pollution as well as develop waterfront as a part of the city by link it to the CBD and other important parts of the city.

As a designer, we need to pay attention to three major perspectives in this project: 1. the development perspective, 2. the tourism perspective, 3. the recreation perspective. Within these three perspectives, waterfront projects earn credits in seven categories:

1. Site Selection & Planning,

Plan and develop responsibly through better project siting and resiliency strategies that account for climate change, sea level rise, and coastal flooding.

2. Public Access & Interaction,

Enhance physical, visual, and psychological access to the waterfront area.

3. Edge Resiliency,

Design a resilient and ecologically beneficial waterfront edge.

4. Ecology & Habitat,

Protect existing habitat and enhance the waterfront edge and site ecosystem

5. Materials & Resources,

Use materials and resources that are resilient, environmentally friendly, and provide societal benefits; includes responsible construction practices.

6. Operations & Maintenance,

Address life-cycles of projects including sustained maintenance strategies, preparations for future climate events, and partnerships to advance scientific understanding of waterfronts.

7. Innovation

Identify innovative designs and strategies or substantially exceed specific credit requirements.

One of the basic steps in design is site inventory and analysis. East coast Malaysia, facing the South China Sea, the East Coast states of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan are well-known for fine beaches, beautiful coral islands and excellent scuba diving and snorkeling spots. Life here moves at a leisurely pace in the region renowned for Malay handicrafts such as wood carving, batik, silverware and songket weaving. Understanding the important of coastal ecology at the site bring us to the question of how to improve or rehabilitate the site through the waterfront design.  

The first phase of design is to create a Groyne or water breaker as a tool to create clear line between the water body and the land. With this step we are defending the shoreline at its current position. The second step is related to the criteria of the design but it is best advised to rehabilitate the beach through beach nourishment, vegetation planting and geotextile. As mentioned before, through understanding the site characters, we can understand that the type of existing vegetation, and also the suitable vegetation that can be plant at site to increase the vitality of the beach and also the existing ecosystem. The combination of these two steps, reduce the erosion rate by slowing down the loss of sediments.

With these two steps we can achieve the stabled nature part of the design which can help us proceed with design and activity zoning by bringing in eco-engineering techniques to the site. Stepping further into the design we need to ensure that waterfront public access areas are inviting to the public; Ensure uninterrupted waterfront access that is clearly open to the public; facilitate high quality design elements including multiple types of seating’s and lighting; promote the greening of the waterfront with the variety of plant, materials that provide aesthetic and ecological benefits, including trees, shrubs, and ground cover; facilitate a wide range of amenities, including access to water, boat launches and anchorages, and play areas; encourage a variety of landscape design, including edge treatments; and activate waterfront spaces by improving connection between the water’s edge and the upland street.

As the old tale of design, as a designer we need to plan a set of strategies that would help to maintain the existing and future water plan designs. The most general strategies are:

1. Acquire and increase protection of wetland and other shoreline habitat.

2. Increase scientific understanding, public awareness, and stewardship of the natural waterfront.

3. Promote ecological restoration that enhances the robustness and resilience of local and regional ecosystems.


Waterfront alliance. Waterfront edge design guidelines. Retrieved From:

Department of city planning city of New York. Waterfront design guideline. Retrieved From:

Vision 2020: New York City comprehensive waterfront plan. Restore degraded natural waterfront areas, and protect wetlands and shorefront habitats. Retrieved From:

Waterfront revitalization policies, section III. Retrieved From:

Waterfront Development within the Urban Design and Public Space Framework in Malaysia. Retrieved From:

Malaysia East Coast Region. Retrieved From:

Question 3:

Urban ecosystems apply the ecosystem approach to urban areas. Urban ecosystems are dynamic ecosystems that have similar interactions and behaviors as natural ecosystems. Unlike natural ecosystems however, urban ecosystems are a hybrid of natural and man-made elements whose interactions are affected not only by the natural environment, but also culture, personal behavior, politics, economics and social organization.

Urbanization refers to general increase in population and the amount of industrialization of a settlement. It includes increase in the number and extent of cities. It symbolizes the movement of people from rural to urban areas. Urbanization happens because of the increase in the extent and density of urban areas.

Although they cover a relatively small area of the world, cities are home to many people and are expanding and densifying at incredible rates. By the year 2030, it is estimated that more than 60% (4.9 billion) of the estimated world population (8.1 billion) will live in cities (UN 1999 in Alberti 2005). Cities have an enormous impact on ecological function at multiple levels. Numerous studies have documented that urbanization “fragments, isolates, and degrades natural habitat; simplifies and homogenizes species composition; disrupts hydrological systems; and modifies energy flow and nutrient cycling.” (Alberti 2005, 169). Additionally, cities are characterized by high energy consumption (100 to 300 times that of natural systems), lack of habitat patch integration, invasion of nonnative species, warmer microclimate, increased precipitation and runoff, high metal and organic matter concentration in soils, and modification of natural disturbance regimes (Alberti 2005).

For thousands of years, cities have existed apart from nature. Why should we begin now to think of cities in terms usually reserved for the natural environment? The fact is, in the world that we’ve created for ourselves, cities occupy crucial positions, for better or worse, in the patterns of global ecology. This becomes clear when we put aside our standard images of cities and consider their ecological functions. Let’s break it down to comprehensive words:  An ecosystem is a community of living things interacting with nonliving things. Examples include forests, lakes, soils, and coral reefs. A city is an urban ecosystem. People are among the living things, and the buildings, streets, and other structures that people build are among the nonliving things.

Scientists who study urban ecosystems often begin with the landscape: What does it look like? How patchy is it? What nearby features might influence it? They also must consider different kinds of boundaries (e.g. political jurisdictions, neighborhoods, rivers, and other natural features) and think about how these might affect the ecosystem.  One of the most important elements for urban ecosystems is time: The effects of history and heritages, and processes that change suddenly or unpredictably over time. Ecosystems are complex systems. Complexity does not just mean that they are complicated (although that is sometimes the perspective that humans have!). Complexity implies that the ecosystem has what are called “emergent properties.” This is just a sophisticated way of saying that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. The reason complexity matters are that it makes the ecosystem behave in what scientists call a “nonlinear” way. In considering urban ecosystems, we should try to put aside the notion that nature means only majestic mountains, pristine forests, and untamed rivers. There is also nature in cities; it just tends to be a little less obvious. Cities have linear metabolisms and are heterotrophic. In nature, things cycle. Basically, everything that an organism puts out becomes an input for another organism, or in some way renews and sustains the living environment. There are no wastes as we humans know them. The water, nutrient, and other cycles of nature are together considered to be part of an ecosystem's metabolism.

The metabolism of urban ecosystems is much more linear than that of forest or lake ecosystems, which tend to emphasize cycles. Humans literally create scores of inputs and outputs. Many of the materials that enter the city may be used once and then discarded to join a pile in a landfill. Other materials—such as human food—enter the city, enter the humans, exit the humans, and then exit the city via a sewage system. In a typical city, much more material comes in than goes out each year. This means that cities actually store mass as time goes by. Many natural ecosystems store mass as well. For example, a forest may store dead wood and leaves, as well as the mass of the growing trees themselves. In addition to thinking of metabolism in terms of materials going in circles versus lines, ecologists also think of metabolism in terms of where the energy comes from. Like organisms, different ecosystems also have autotrophic and heterotrophic metabolisms. In autotrophic ecosystems, most of the energy that powers the food web was fixed by green plants right there inside the system. If most of the energy that runs the food web was actually fixed outside of the system, you have a heterotrophic ecosystem. Cities and towns also depend heavily on materials and energy from outside their boundaries. Thus, urban ecosystems are heterotrophic. This is a simple statement, but it is deeply revealing. Because most of their resources come from outside, cities are dependent on all kinds of processes beyond their borders. The significance of this to human populations is the illusion it encourages: that humans are independent from nature. Unfortunately, it is this illusion of independence from nature that has led to some of the problems of modern cities.

Urban populations interact with their environment. Urban people change their environment through their consumption of food, energy, water, and land. And in turn, the polluted urban environment affects the health and quality of life of the urban population. People who live in urban areas have very different consumption patterns than residents in rural areas. Urban populations not only consume more food, but they also consume more durable goods. Energy consumption for electricity, transportation, cooking, and heating is much higher in urban areas than in rural villages. As countries move from using noncommercial forms of energy to commercial forms, the relative price of energy increases. Economies, therefore, often become more efficient as they develop because of advances in technology and changes in consumption behavior. The urbanization of the world's populations, however, will increase total energy use, despite efficiencies and new technologies. And the increased consumption of energy is likely to have harmful environmental effects.

Urban consumption of energy helps create heat islands that can change local weather patterns and weather downwind from the heat islands. The heat island phenomenon is created because cities radiate heat back into the atmosphere at rate 15 percent to 30 percent less than rural areas. The combination of the increased energy consumption and difference in radiation means that cities are warmer than rural areas and these heat islands become traps for atmospheric pollutants. Cloudiness and fog occur with greater frequency. Precipitation is 5 percent to 10 percent higher in cities; thunderstorms and hailstorms are much more frequent, but snow days in cities are less common. Urbanization also affects the broader regional environments. Regions downwind from large industrial complexes also see increases in the amount of precipitation, air pollution, and the number of days with thunderstorms. Urban areas affect not only the weather patterns, but also the runoff patterns for water. Urban areas generally generate more rain, but they reduce the infiltration of water and lower the water tables. This means that runoff occurs more rapidly with greater peak flows. Flood volumes increase, as do floods and water pollution downstream. Many of the effects of urban areas on the environment are not necessarily linear. Bigger urban areas do not always create more environmental problems. And small urban areas can cause large problems. Much of what determines the extent of the environmental impacts is how the urban populations behave — their consumption and living patterns — not just how large they are.

“There is an enormous opportunity here, and a lot of pressure and responsibility to think about how we urbanize,” says Seto. “The one thing that’s clear is that we can’t build cities the way we have over the last couple of hundred years. The scale of this transition won’t allow that.” We’re headed towards an urban planet no matter what, but whether it becomes a heaven or a hell is up to us.


Firth, Penny. Urban Ecosystems: Cities Are Urban Ecosystems. Retrieved From:

Srinivas, Hari. Sustainability Concepts. Retrieved From:

Lyle, John T. Urban Ecosystems: Cities of the future will embrace the ecology of the landscape, rather than set themselves apart. Retrieved From:

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Impacts of urbanization on environment. Retrieved From:

Torrey, Barbara. B. Urbanization: An Environmental Force to Be Reckoned With. Retrieved From:

Walsh, Bryan. Urban Planet: How Growing Cities Will Wreck the Environment Unless We Build Them Right. Retrieved From:

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