The Use of Technology in Conserving an Endangered Tree Species

art-163-01-22052020

The critically endangered Karas tree

By utilising the hyperspectral sensor, Forest Department Sarawak (FDS) has been mitigating the depletion of wild Karas trees in Sarawak.

The Karas tree is a critically endangered tree species that produces a dark resinous heartwood called agarwood or gaharu that is used in perfume-making and industries including pharmaceutical and furniture.

Agarwood is conventionally detected by slashing the trunk of the Karas tree, which involves essentially cutting down the entire tree. Success rate for this method is generally low at less than 15 percent.

This discourages tree planting of this species by local communities for fear of losing their investment in terms of planting costs, time and inoculation costs, as they are aware of the difficulty in gathering agarwood.

Given that it is difficult to find presence of agarwood externally, FDS provides a non-destructive method through the hyperspectral sensor which helps to detect this raw material easier through the leaves.

As a result, local communities are now able to plant more Karas trees instead of harvesting them in the wild, consequently preserving and conserving this endangered tree species.

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