Ecological Assessment on Pulau Aur, Johor, Malaysia
Ecological Assessment study on Pulau Aur, Johor, Malaysia
Pulau Aur is one of the Mersing Islands of Johor. It is the outermost island, approximately 67 km offshore from the town of Mersing, Johor. Pulau Aur was declared a Marine Park in 1994. The island used to be highly populated and intensively developed for coconut plantation. However, the plantation is now abandoned and only 200 people remaining on the island. The locals are mainly involved in tourism activities as tour and resort operators, and boatman. There are four tourist resorts operating on the northwest part of the island.
The ecological assessment study showed that Pulau Aur has a rich marine biodiversity, with 114 coral species and 180 reef associated fish species being recorded here. The sub-tidal coral reef communities here provide a representative example of coral reef wetland in the Indo-Malayan Realm. Out of these, 4 hard corals and 13 fish species are new records to Malaysia. The island is also important as habitat for migratory marine turtles, molluscs and echinoderms. Pulau Aur is known to support species that classified as “Threatened” or “Near-threatened” on a global scale by IUCN (2000). This includes the Near-threatened Nicobar Pigeon and an endemic reptile, Pulau Aur Rock Gecko Cnemaspis baueri. The island also supports a fairly rich terrestrial fauna with 28 bird species, 25 amphibian and reptile species and 14 mammal species.
As a conclusion, Pulau Aur is an important area for terrestrial and marine biodiversity and remains in a relatively pristine nature due to low human population pressures and small-scale tourism development. The coral reef ecosystem in particular provides a significant justification for delineating the site as Malaysia’s first marine Ramsar site.
Gazettement of the marine park as Ramsar site will strengthen the protection status of the island. Pulau Aur was designated as a national park under the Johor National Park Enactment 1989; thus, ensuring the conservation of the entire island ecosystem. It is recommended that future development activities on Pulau Aur should utilize the already alienated land and no additional forest area should be alienated for these purposes. Special management zones to be established with the residential zone, tourism and development zone, core protection zone and buffer zone being outlined, and clear development guidelines to be developed to ensure that the development of the island is closely aligned to the importance of its marine ecosystems.