Sandy Beach Environment in Brunei

For the conservation and understanding of a unique ecosystem and environment of the coastal areas, Assistant Professor Yasuaki Tanaka from the Faculty of Science initiated a research project to study Brunei’s beaches.

With the assistance of students (Nurhazwani Sirun, Nur Rasyidah Haji Jemluddin, Nur Atiqah Alias, and Hanisah Amirah Hj Abd Hamid) who took on sampling and analysis tasks for their final year projects, AP Tanaka aims to evaluate how coastal geographical structures affect sandy beach environment.

Brunei Darussalam faces the South China Sea and the coastlines are largely rimmed with sandy beaches, which provide various ecosystem services. Coastal wave energy is dissipated along sandy beaches and the backland is protected from direct exposure to waves. On a beach slope, the sediment continuously traps and removes organic matter from surf waters through swash and backwash. The trapped organic matter is mineralised by bacteria or utilised by other organisms in the sediment. These material cycles sustain a unique biodiversity of sandy beaches. Sand crabs are easily found on beaches and sea turtles need to land on a sandy beach to lay their eggs. Sandy beaches are also important recreational areas for humans.

Most sandy beaches in Brunei (e.g., Muara and Meragang Beaches) are naturally exposed to the open ocean, while some of them (e.g., Tungku Beach) are semi-enclosed by artificial constructions. These distinct types of beaches may have different characteristics in seawater properties, sediment conditions, and biological communities.

In preliminary surveys, the team found that Tungku Beach (semi-enclosed beach) had finer grains and more organic matter in the beach sediment than Muara and Meragang Beaches (exposed beaches). They consider that because semi-enclosed geography tends to create calm waves, finer grains accumulate on the beach and can trap more organic matter from the overlying surf waters.

Additionally, seawater appeared to be more acidic at Tungku Beach than the others. Organic matter in sediment is mineralised by bacteria and regenerated carbon dioxide (CO2) might have made the ambient water pH more acidic at Tungku Beach. Ocean acidification is a global concern in climate change biology and ecology, but local geographical conditions may magnify or ameliorate the global trend.

As the study on the beaches in Brunei is in its early stages, AP Tanaka and his team will continue to monitor activities at the beaches for further observations. Further findings will be expected in the near future after extensive and long-term surveys.

With 70% of its land being covered in forest, Brunei is home to a wide range of biodiversity in flora and fauna. UBD, through its Kuala Belalong Field Studies Centre (KBFSC) has become known as the hub for knowledge and research in biodiversity, attracting researchers from across the globe to learn about and from nature. The rich biodiversity opens doors to possibilities of countless multidisciplinary research in environmental studies, energy, innovation and technology for a sustainable future.

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