Journal Article

A preliminary survey of the invertebrate fauna of the Gunung Mulu World Heritage karst area, Sarawak, Malaysia

Moulds, T., Anderson, J., Anderson, R. and Nykiel, P.

Record Number:
Cave and Karst Management in Australasia
The Gunung Mulu World Heritage Area (Mulu) is situated in the north eastern corner of Sarawak, Malaysia on the Island of Borneo, adjacent to the South China Sea. The area was prescribed as a national park in 1974 and is the largest national park in Sarawak covering an area of 528 km2 . The area contains significant karstic limestone, with some of the world’s largest caves by volume known from the area including Deer Cave and the Clearwater System. In 2012 a team of Australian speleologists undertook a preliminary survey of the invertebrate biodiversity of eight caves within Mulu. The caves were a mix of tourist, adventure and wild caves within the park. Invertebrates were recorded from a mixture of different microhabitats found within the caves and reference specimens from each cave were collected and preserved for future study. The aims of the study were to document the biodiversity of the caves; provide a photo inventory of species recorded; compare the invertebrate diversity and abundance between different cave zones and microhabitats; compare the invertebrate diversity and abundance between caves used for different tourism purposes. The survey recorded over 19,000 specimens using a combination of collection and observation of species that presently represents 100 different morpho-species, from 28 orders and 9 classes. The number of morpho-species is expected to increase with additional sampling and further identification of the specimens already collected. Forty different species have been photo-inventoried thus far. Preliminary analysis of data has shown no discernible differences in invertebrate diversity or abundance between tourist caves and wild caves. Observed differences in invertebrate populations are related to microhabitat variability and availability within sampled caves, with greater invertebrate abundance related to bird and bat guano deposits. This study represents the first stage of invertebrate research at Mulu, and future efforts will focus on increasing the photo inventory to provide a useful resource to the Mulu Park and Sarawak Forestry staff to identify cave invertebrates in the field. Ultimately increasing the local knowledge of cave invertebrate fauna will provide the best protection for these important ecosystems.
Times Cited: