Friday 24 August 2018

Vatica najibiana: A new species of Dipterocarp from Peninsula Malaysia.

Dipterocarps are tropical forest trees in the Mallow Family, Malvales, found predominantly in Southeast Asia, where they often form the dominant part of the flora, as well as in South Asia and Africa, and, to a lesser extent South America. The name Diptrerocarp means 'winged fruit', the distinguishing feature of these trees, nuts with distinctive 'wings' which enable them to glide long distances after being shed, aiding distribution of the trees, Members of the genus Vatica are small-to-medium sized trees with smooth bark and leaves found in Southeast Asia.

In a paper published in the journal PhytoKeys on 10 May 2018, Abdul Rahman Ummul-Nazrah, Mohd Amin Mohd Hairul, Imin Kamin, Ruth Kiew and Poh Teck Ong of the Forest Research Institute Malaysia, describe a new species of Vatica from Kelantan and Pahang states in Peninsula Malaysia.

The new species is named Vatica najibiana, in honour of the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, for his interest in nature conservation and protection of the environment. It is a small tree, reaching 5-7 m in height, with a bole width of 15-17 cm. The trunk is a smooth dark brown with faint horizontal bands, and large patches of white Lichen. The leaves are elliptical to lance shaped, and the nuts 7-10 mm in diameter.

Vatica najibiana. (A) Plant in its natural habitat. (B) Bole. (C) Inner bark. (D)–(E) Leafy shoots with infructescences (F) Fruit. Imin Kamin & Abdul Rahman Ummul-Nazrah in Ummul-Nazrah et al. (2018).

Vatica najibiana was found at only two locations, one in the Relai Forest Reserve in Gua Musang District, Kelantan State, and one near Merapoh in Gua Tanggang District, Pahang State, both on the summit of isolated karst limestone hills, and about 40 km apart. The total known habitat of the trees covers less than 10 km², with the Gua Tanggang location having no protection, and the Relai Forest Reserve location, while in theory protected, is considered to be threatened by encroachment by oil palm plantations, which are often expanded by burning other vegetation. For this reason the species is considered to be Endangered under the terms of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.

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