During tropical storms, rain scours the land and runoff carries sediments into the nearest sink – for Batu Puteh and the surrounding villages this is the Kinabatangan river. Overland flows deposit these sediments in depressional areas with lower elevation, sorted by turbidity, such as the floodplains bounding the river.
Tropical hardwood forests have historically covered the land, however, modern agricultural practices are altering land use and potentially altering sedimentation regimes. The oil palm industry is disturbing the land and natural nutrient regimes, and cultivators are often using fire to clear the land of trees and vines and then are depositing large quantities of fertilizers to promote high palm oil production rates and to solve the low nutrient availability of tropical soil. Changing weather patterns have altered the regularity of rainfall patterns, and changing climate regimes have left peat bog systems drier and vulnerable to fire.
Altered fire regimes have decimated local forest ecology, and the local KOPEL eco team (www.mescot.org) is working to replant the riparian forests with the help of traveling school groups such as ours and tourists eager to give back. A local restoration team has worked over the past 20+ years to create a nonprofit that has battled fires, fought back aggressive ruderal vine species that colonize all open spaces, and cultivated and replanted hardwood species.