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High levels of nickel found in plants: Masidi

Published on: Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Kota Kinabalu: Recent research collaboration between Sabah Parks, the Sabah Forestry Department and University of Queensland had discovered nickel in hyperaccumulator plants.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun said these unusual and rare plants have the capacity to uptake and accumulate extraordinary high levels of nickel and other metals in their tissues.

"A total of 24 species of nickel hyperaccumulator have been recorded, one of which has 18 per cent nickel in its sap, which is one of the highest in the world.

"A mature nickel hyperaccumulator tree can contain up to 5kg nickel metal. These plants can be used in 'phytomining' where metals are produced commercially from biomass, by growing selected hyperaccumulator plants on ultramafic soil," he said during the opening ceremony of the 8th International Conference on Serpentine Ecology, here, Monday.

Masidi said the collaboration will continue to focus on geospatial analysis of ultramafic vegetation using ultra-high resolution UAV (unmanned aircraft vehicle) imagery.

The research has provided valuable baseline data for future research on ecology and various fields related to ultramafic outcrops and has the potential to explore more on phytomining research perspective to be in placed in Sabah.

He added that it is high time to prioritise research on ultramafic outcrops through various fields and to make Sabah as one of the research centres of ultramafic studies in Asian region.

"The State Government through my Ministry will continue to support the Sabah Parks and other agencies to conduct scientific research to our vast tropical ecosystem. "Sabah has the most number of NGOs operating in this State and we are always open to views and suggestions to improve research activities on preserving the natural environment in this country," he said.

Masidi also invited delegates who attended the conference to bring good words about the conservation efforts being done in Sabah to the people in their respective countries.

"We are proud of what we have done so far and we will continue to do our best in preserving our environment because we believe this is our legacy to our future generations," he said.

More than 150 delegates from 29 countries have registered for the five-day conference, with 60 oral papers and 37 posters expected to be presented.

It was the first time that the conference series was held in Asia.

The participants will have the opportunity to attend a special symposium at Kinabalu Park on Thursday before joining a mid-conference trip to the Mamut Copper Mine area near the Kinabalu Park boundary, which is an excellent showcase of serpentine area.

Masidi, in his capacity as Tourism Minister, also invited the delegates to make the most of their time in the State by visiting the various attractions around the city. Later, Masidi launched the book by Sabah Park entitled "Ultramafic Flora of Sabah, An Introduction - The Plant Diversity on Ultramafic Soils", sold at RM180 per copy.