Why these species?
The equatorial island of Borneo, with its array of forests – from montane to mangrove and heath to peat swamp – are home to many iconic yet threatened species, such as the orang-utan. A staggering 15,000 plant species are estimated to survive in Borneo, with around one third of these found nowhere else on Earth. As well as hosting the largest flower in the world (Rafflesia arnoldii), Borneo is home to the majestic dipterocarps – the towering giants of the tree world which can reach 90 m in height.
However, the trees of West Kalimantan – the westernmost region of the island that forms part of Indonesia – are under severe threat. Vast areas of lowland dipterocarp, heath and peat forest have been converted to oil palm plantations, settlements, local mining, or lost to forest fire. Some of the remaining forest blocks are protected, typically within nature reserves or by village organisations awarded formal management rights under the Indonesian government’s community forestry programme, e.g. village forests or “Hutan Desa”.
However, even where forest habitat is protected, high-value timber species such as Meranti (Shorea spp.) and Ramin (Gonystylus sp.) are selectively logged, further exacerbating population decline to critical levels. The loss of mature fruiting trees means that many species are unable to reproduce adequately to recover without assistance, especially where forest has been degraded by fire or replaced by grasses.
What are we doing about it?
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been working in West Kalimantan since 2010, supporting village forest management organisations to secure 35-year licenses for management of nearly 9,000 ha of peat swamp and dipterocarp forest habitat. These licenses give communities the right to sustainably manage their forests and protect them from expansion of oil palm, providing a basis from which to carry out more targeted interventions for threatened trees.
We are also working in Muara Kendawangan Nature Reserve alongside the local government authority for biodiversity conservation. Here, we are establishing effective monitoring and patrolling to reduce threats, particularly to threatened trees found in a rare heath and peat swamp forests within the reserve.
Across the project, we are implementing some key common approaches:
- Building local capacity to identify threatened trees and deliver in situ conservation actions
- Implementing SMART patrols to regularly monitor and protect threatened trees
- Where required, reinforcing threatened tree populations through tree planting and ongoing seedling aftercare.
Training in threatened tree identification and SMART patrol methods provided in 2019 has enabled local forest rangers and local government staff to effectively protect areas of community-managed forest. These regular patrols include gathering data on the distributions of threatened tree species and deterring threats such as logging or burning. Data gathered so far is helping to improve targeting of patrol efforts around hotpots of threatened trees, illegal activity and fire outbreaks, along with enhancing reporting practices and law enforcement.
The information gathered has also highlighted the extremely low densities of the target threatened tree species, all of which are showing limited signs of natural regeneration. Plots have been identified within the project area for restoration planting, and these plots will be monitored closely following planting to measure survival rates and forest dynamics.
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