Project Update 22, Publication Update 20: Project Limestone Press Release

Scientists and Lafarge Malaysia Collaborate to Study Threatened Land Snails

Kuala Lumpur – Scientists and Lafarge Malaysia recently embarked on a joint study to document the diversity of land snails at limestone hills in Peninsular Malaysia.

A quarried limestone hill in Kinta Valley, Perak, Malaysia. Credit: Junn Kitt Foon. License: CC-BY 4.0

Formed from reefs beneath ancient seas, limestone hills are regarded as “arks of biodiversity” because they can harbour plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth. A recent study showed that at least 445 limestone hills can be found scattered across Peninsular Malaysia.

Research has also shown that limestone hills provide numerous benefits to humans, by storing groundwater, or providing habitat for cave bats that either pollinate commercially important trees like Durian, or reduce pests in rice fields.

To support the construction industry which plays a vital role in the socio-economic development of the country, however, certain limestone hills are being quarried to make cement.

In order to better understand the distribution of endemic land snail species in and around one limestone hill in the State of Perak – Gunung Kanthan – the quarry operator, Lafarge Malaysia, provided a research grant to scientists from Universiti Malaysia Sabah and Rimba in 2016 to conduct a large-scale survey of land snails at 12 limestone hills across the State.

Examples of the land snail species found on Perak’s limestone hills during the survey. Credit: Junn Kitt Foon. License: CC-BY 4.0

Last week, the findings of this study were published in the open access journal ZooKeys. The researchers recorded a total of 122 species of land snails, of which 34 species were unique to one of the hills surveyed in this study. Most strikingly, around 30 species are potentially new to science.

With this study, scientists now have a better understanding of the diversity of land snail species in Perak, and possible factors explaining their modern-day distribution. Most importantly, the findings can be used to support Lafarge Malaysia and the State in their limestone conservation efforts.

A co-author of this study, Dr. Gopalasamy Reuben Clements, who is the co-founder of Rimba and an Associate Professor with Sunway University, said, “Our results will not only be used by Lafarge to improve the protection of important snail habitats on Kanthan, but can also help the Perak State government identify biologically important hills that should be set aside for protection in the planned Kinta Valley geological park.”

This is a good example where resource extraction companies have cooperated with scientists to document biodiversity in Malaysia. Lafarge Malaysia’s Kanthan Plant Manager, Jean-Yves Clement added, “Lafarge Malaysia has a strong commitment to biodiversity across all of its sites in the country and is aiming to make a positive change for biodiversity. Through this collaboration, we have been able to develop a deeper understanding of endemic limestone biodiversity, as well as build our capacity to deliver on our corporate social responsibilities.”

Following this example, it is hoped that other limestone quarrying companies will become actively involved in the conservation of Malaysia’s unique limestone ecosystems.

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