Kinabalu Park, in the State of Sabah on the northern end of the island of Borneo, is dominated by Mount Kinabalu (4,095 m), the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea. It has a very wide range of habitats, from rich tropical lowland and hill rainforest to tropical mountain forest, sub-alpine forest and scrub on the higher elevations. It has been designated as a Centre of Plant Diversity for Southeast Asia and is exceptionally rich in species with examples of flora from the Himalayas, China, Australia, Malaysia, as well as pan-tropical flora.
Justification for Inscription
Criteria (ix) and (x): The site has a diverse biota and high endemism. The altitudinal and climatic gradient from tropical forest to alpine conditions combine with precipitous topography, diverse geology and frequent climate oscillations to provide conditions ideal for the development of new species. The Park contains high biodiversity with representatives from more than half the families of all flowering plants. The majority of Borneo’s mammals, birds, amphibians and invertebrates (many threatened and vulnerable) occur in the Park.
As the highest mountain between the Himalayas and New Guinea, Mount Kinabalu (4,095 m) holds a distinctive position for the biota of South-East Asia. Kinabalu is a granite intrusion formed 15 million years ago by the hardening of a mass of molten rock that rose beneath the sedimentary rocks of Borneo's Crocker Range. 1 million years ago this pluton was thrust upward by tectonic movements which continue to this day. The sandstone and shale that once covered the granite have been eroded to reveal the underlying rock. During the Pleistocene, glaciers covered Kinabalu's summit, scouring the granite plateau and sharpening the jagged peaks above the ice. The ice sheet disappeared 10,000 years ago. Since then, wind and water have sculpted the summit peaks further to create pinnacles and deep valleys.
Natural vegetation covers 93% of the park with rich tropical lowland and hill rainforest (dominated by diptocarps) amounting to 35%. Tropical montane forest covers another 37% of the park with subalpine forest and evergreen scrub found at the higher elevations. Of particular conservation significance are vegetation types developed on ultramafic (serpentine) rocks. Ultramafic vegetation covers about 16% of the park and contains many species restricted to this substrate.
Kinabalu has been identified as a Centre of Plant Diversity. Despite its geological youth, it is exceptionally rich in species with elements from the Himalayas, China, Australia, Malesia and Pantropical floras. The park has between 5,000-6,000 vascular plant species, 1,000 of which are orchids. It is particularly rich in Ficus (78 taxa), ferns (610 species) and Nepenthes (9 species of pitcher plant). Rafflesia, a rare parasitic plant, is also found. The mountain flora has diverse 'living fossils' such as the celery pine and the trig-oak, the evolutionary link between oaks and beeches.
The variety of Kinabalu's habitats includes 6 vegetation zones from lowland rainforest through to alpine scrub at 4,095 m. Faunal diversity is also high with the majority of Borneo's mammals, birds, amphibians and invertebrates (many threatened and vulnerable) known to occur in the park. It is clear that Kinabalu Park contains the important and significant habitats for the in-situ conservation of biological diversity.
The high species diversity of Kinabalu results from a number of factors: the great altitudinal and climatic gradient from tropical forest to alpine conditions; precipitous topography causing effective geographical isolation over short distances; the diverse geology with many localized edaphic conditions, particularly the ultramafic substrates; the frequent climate oscillations influenced by El Niño events; and geological history of the Malay archipelago and proximity to the much older Crocker Range.
The above processes provide ideal conditions for a diverse biota, high endemism and rapid evolutionary rates. Wildlife is also diverse with 90 species of lowland mammal and 22 others found in the montane zone. Four species of primate occur and 326 bird species have been recorded. Mount Kinabalu is thus both species-rich and an important centre for endemism. Half of all Borneo's birds, mammals and amphibian species including many rare and endangered species occur in the park. Two-thirds of all Bornean reptiles and at least half of its plant species are represented in the park. Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC