The Meliau Range in Sabah, which represents one of Borneo's most important ultramafic biomes, is located in central Sabah, just north of Telupid, within the Ulu Tungud Forest Reserve. Ultramafic soils have high concentrations of magnesium and iron ('mafic' is derived from magnesium and ferum), but are poor in other soil nutrients. Due to the high content of toxic heavy metals, the lack of nutrients and water retention, such soils support only highly specialized forms of plants that are adapted to this environment-such as orchids, pitcher plants and ant plants. Many ultramafic outcrops host some of the world's rarest plant species, which are endemic or confined only to certain areas. Less than 1% of the earth's surface is made up of ultramafic material. In Malaysia, Sabah has the largest number of ultramafic outcrops, which account for about 3,500 sq. km or 4.6% of the total land area of the State.
Until recently, the Meliau Range had been little explored and it promises to reveal a treasure trove of rare and unique flora and fauna. Its rugged, mountainous exterior also creates a sense of remoteness; an area in which nature can run its own course. Understanding and conserving this area is, therefore, of utmost importance. Thus in 2003, Global Environment Centre (GEC), TSH Resources Berhad and the Sabah Forestry Department established a partnership aimed at exploring the biodiversity of the Meliau Range and developing a plan for the sustainable management of its resources.
Under this partnership, a number of studies-including two scientific expeditions-have been organised to explore the Meliau Range's biodiversity, which is highlighted in this illustrated book. The many important findings include the discovery of several previously undescribed plant and animal species as well as many rare or restricted species. The livelihood of local communities surrounding the area was also investigated during this time, and it is clear that the Meliau Range plays an important role in their lives-through the provision of water, fish and forest resources. This introductory account of the Meliau Range provides a breathtaking insight into the area, and includes the initial findings of the studies which have been conducted there.