A pollen morphology study from the Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo

Samantha Elsie Jones, Katherine Georgina Pearce (Collaborator)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Despite the rich biodiversity of plants in the islands of southeast Asia, modern pollen reference collections are still sparse for this part of the world. With only limited availability of pollen data, the ability to answer questions, regarding climate change and environmental change, to aid archaeological investigations through the reconstruction of past vegetation, or even for modern investigations, is challenging. No palynological work had ever been carried out in the Kelabit Highlands of Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, before this investigation. During 2007–2008, as part of the ‘Cultured Rainforest Project’, a number of cores were extracted for multi-proxy palaeoecological analysis, including pollen analysis. The cores produced a 50,000-year record of climate, environmental and later anthropogenic change. To aid fossil pollen identification, a modern pollen reference collection was also established. In August 2008, 253 modern plant species from a wide range of habitats were collected from in and around the villages of Bario and Pa’Dalih. Specimens were identified at the Department of Forestry Sarawak Herbarium (SAR), whilst pollen slides from all of the plant specimens were prepared at Queens University Belfast. This paper presents a detailed account of the pollen grains (176 species) collected from the Kelabit Highlands, and from SAR (25 species).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)150-204
Number of pages55
Issue number2
Early online date26 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank the Department of Forestry Sarawak for allowing fieldwork in the Kelabit Highlands and also for support and use of facilities at the Sarawak Herbarium. Thank you to Dr. Ipoi Datan from the National Museum of Sarawak, Ulum from Bario and Belaan Paran for their assistance in collecting modern samples. Thank you to Reedy in Bario and Henry in Pa’Dalih for their assistance in the field. Thank you to everyone on the ‘Cultured Rainforest Project’ for your help and support: Prof. Graeme Barker, Dr. Huw Barton, Daniel Britton, Ben Davenport, Dr. Monica Janowski, Dr. Chris Hunt (for advice and use of your microscope), Ian Ewart, Dr. Rose Ferraby, Dr. Chris Gosden, Dr. Lindsay Lloyd-Smith, Borbála Nyíri, Dr. Beth Upex and Dr. Lucy Farr. Thank you also for the advice provided by Dr. Premathilake, and to John Davidson who assisted in some of the laboratory preparations, as well as Ron Reimer, Prof. Valerie Hall, Prof. Joanthan Pilcher, Dr. Javier Fernandez and Dr. Maarten Blaauw. We would also like to thank the reviewers and managing editor of Palynology, Dr. James Riding, for advice given, which has helped to significantly improve this paper and also to Taylor and Francis for proofing and shaping the paper ready for publication.

This project has primarily been funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the ‘Cultured Rainforest Project’ under the Landscape and Environment Programme 2006–2012 [Grant number unknown].

The final stage of the paper has also been supported by a Marie Curie Intra-European Fellowship (MCIEF). From March 2014. [Grant number 628589]


  • tropical pollen
  • Kelabit Highlands
  • Sarawak
  • Malaysian Borneo


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