|3 March 2022
Series 23, Talk #2
Our journey through the geological, botanical and climatic history of the Malaysian rainforest will start in the southern hemisphere about 350 million years ago when marine sediments are accumulating on the seabed off the northern edge of Gondwana. One hundred and seventy million years pass before a semi-arid land emerges ~20 degrees north of the equator on the southern edge of Asia in the mid-Jurassic (180ma). Then, starting from 150my, we pivot clockwise and travel south until, by mid-Eocene (45ma), we are in the equatorial zone surrounded by rainforest. Thereafter changes in global and regional climate cause the extent of the equatorial rainforest to fluctuate. This is most notable in the last two million years when a cyclic sequence of climate induced glacial and interglacial events periodically lower global sea levels. Lower sea levels change Peninsular Malaysia profoundly as the surrounding seas disappear and what was a peninsula becomes part of the interior of a vast continent known as Sundaland. The change to a continental climate results in a more open forest periodically replacing rainforest and probably led to the extinction of orangutans from mainland SE Asia around the time of the Last Glacial Maximum (~20ka).
In summary the continental history of Peninsular Malaysia begins with the emergence of a semi-arid land from beneath the Jurassic sea at ~180ma. Rainforests appear in the mid-Eocene (~45ma) but then, rather than being timeless and unchanging, the rainforest is ever-changing as its flora and fauna must adapt to (sometimes rapid) geological and climatic events.
References can be read at or downloaded from this link…
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