By Nur Ashikin Louis and Ling Hui
SRI AMAN, Sept 24: Environmental scientists and stakeholders participating in AsiaFlux 2022 had the chance to visit and climb up Sarawak’s 40-metre Eddy Covariance Tower during a tropical peat swamp excursion organised by Sarawak Tropical Peat Research Institute (TROPI) in Maludam National Park yesterday (Sept 23).
An Eddy Covariance, also known as Eddy Flux, is a direct measurement method for quantifying carbon dioxide emission rate and monitoring and improving carbon dioxide storage efficiency.
Sarawak is the only State in Malaysia with three flux towers that have been operational for over 10 years.
The other two towers are located at Naman Oil Palm Plantation in Sibu and Cermat Ceria Plantation in Betong.
It is also worth noting that the tower at Maludam National Park is the most comprehensive and longest systematic documentation of a tropical peat swamp forest worldwide.
Selected participants had the opportunity to climb up the Tower, equipped with instruments that measured carbon flux, wind, soil moisture, relative humidity, and water table.
Others were also able to catch sight of manual and automated chamber systems which are used to measure greenhouse gas fluxes which include carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), and nitrous oxide (N2O) in nearby areas.
According to TROPI researcher Dr Ken Wong, the institute conducts data collection of the flux tower every month, which some foreign participants find ‘too often’ compared to a frequency of only once in six months in South Korea.
“So our (tower) is considered the most efficient system maintenance in the world,” he told DayakDaily during the excursion.
He further explained that the tower-climbing activity aimed to let the participants know the sensors and measurements used by TROPI apart from just taking a picture of the canopy.
He said this would allow for potential collaboration on the power construction of the tower between TROPI and the organisation that the participants are representing.
During the trip, almost all the participants that the writer spoke to sang praises to TROPI for a great job of organising the AsiaFlux 2022 conference and the excursion to Maludam National Park.
The participants did not mind going through the mud at the riverbank of Maludam National Park as they were thankful for the opportunity to walk in the tropical peat swamp, which is rarely found in other parts of the world.
Bai Yang, a participant representing Campbell Scientific Inc in the United States of America, said his company specialises in developing new instruments and manufacturing instruments and working with the research community.
“I enjoyed the TROPI conference and tour. When I saw the research work, I had a lot of respect for them and admired their work, and I believe they are doing an excellent and comprehensive job.
“We come here, and we want to know the demands and needs of the science community. So we collect the ideas, and we want to see where the direction of the research goes.
“So once we return to our company, we will try to follow these ideas and try to improve our instruments and maybe, hopefully, build new instruments to meet the market demand,” he said.
Meanwhile, Flux tower expert Kominami Yuji, the chief of the Meteorological Laboratory at Forestry and Forest Products Research Institute (FFPRI), Japan, said he had climbed many flux towers around the world, with the highest being 100m tall.
“The flux tower in Maludam National Park is great, but climbing is tiring because you have to use the (straight) ladder. In other places, some of the flux towers use step ladders and (we can) go up safely.
“But I think in this present day, 30 to 40 per cent of flux towers around the world still use this kind of (straight) ladder but compared to them, they have just one pole with a straight ladder in addition with a safety belt to come up slowly, that must be very tiring and dangerous. So that is very scary,” he said.
Additionally, Kominami said the area on top of the tower in Maludam National Park is wide enough to mount equipment.
“I think someday; you will be able to not only (measure) CO2 (carbon dioxide) and methane, but also the Di-tert-butyl dicarbonate (BOC) and another small concentration of gas or particulate matter (PM).
“Because the area is very wide, this tower has the potential to make such complex measurements in the future, hopefully,” he added.
At the same time, Otto Briner, a Master’s student at the University of Illinois in Chicago, United States of America, described Maludam National Park as “beautiful”, especially when he climbed up the 40-metre Tower to enjoy the scenery from a higher view.
“I went to a rainforest in Colombia, a country in South America, (which is) also beautiful, but it’s very different (compared to Sarawak). Different continents, different plants, different soil and so on. This is my first time in Sarawak.
“I have met so many people here, and the people are so friendly and inspirational,” he stated.
Another participant Kanna Tanaka, a Master’s student from the Meiji University of Japan, also informed that the flux tower in Sarawak gives her a different vibe than the ones she had climbed back in her home country.
“This flux tower (in Maludam National Park) is higher than Japan, and the tropical trees are higher than those in Japan, so I believe this contributes a lot in terms of the difference in scenery,” she mentioned.
A short video of the trip can be viewed below.