Measuring Regional Index of Ecological Integrity (RIEI) of protected area system of the State of Selangor, Peninsular Malaysia for conservation planning
Ecological systems around the world have been degrading at an appalling rate and protected areas are thought to be the only hope to conserve the remnants from further degradation. Nevertheless, there arises a question- how the ecological integrity of protected areas can be evaluated for biodiversity conservation. A composite index of ecological integrity is believed as a useful tool to evaluate and measure ecological conditions at larger spatial scales. However, no such measurable criteria, thus far examined the ecological integrity of ecological system at broad spatial scale. Therefore, this study examines the ecological integrity of protected areas by quantifying the compositional, structural and functional components of the ecological systems of the State of Selangor, Peninsular Malaysia. In this study, Landsat TM satellite images of the year 1988, 1996 and Landsat ETM+ image of 2005 were used and, GIS and remote sensing technologies were applied in various analyses. A Regional Index of Ecological Integrity (RIEI) is evaluated where four major components of ecological aspects, i.e. representativeness of protected area system, forest fragmentation, habitat suitability of wildlife, and landscape connectivity were considered.
Ecosystem maps of 1988, 1996 and 2005 of the State of Selangor were developed for systematic analysis of ecosystem representativeness. Natural ecosystems are found to be poorly represented in the protected areas (4.1%). Only four of the 19 identified natural ecosystems are well-represented, but their proportions are fairly low and experiencing a high degree of fragmentation. Results revealed that the habitats of key wildlife species have become less suitable. Forested zones in the highland area showed higher landscape connectivity, but it is significantly lower at the low land zones. RIEI revealed that, among the protected areas, Fraser’s Hill and Sungai Dusun are having excellent ecological integrity while Bukit Kutu has a good; Templers Park and Klang Gate showed a fair; and the rests have a poor level of ecological integrity. While policy trends for maintaining a better ecological integrity among protected areas, this approach may help land managers and policy makers to evaluate the ecological conditions in the protected area systems. Additionally, this methodology may suitable to measure ecological condition in many parts of the world for biodiversity conservation and sustainable management of natural resources.