Indonesia – May 3rd, 2013
This image focuses on the island of Borneo, in Southeast Asia, showing its vegetation index. The rainforests of Southeast Asia support much of the region’s biodiversity. They play a crucial role in providing important ecosystem services such as soil stabilisation and carbon storage, and are an important source of income locally and nationally.
However, these lowland forests are under serious threat from direct and indirect human activities. Deforestation is occurring at a huge rate, due to logging for timber, conversion to huge agricultural plantations, and slash-and-burn farming methods. This has a serious impact on biodiversity and general functioning of the ecosystem and, as a result, affects the livelihoods of the many people who depend on the forests for income, shelter, water and food.
Perhaps the biggest and most long-term threat facing the rainforests, however, is posed by climate change, in particular increasingly severe and frequent droughts associated with El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events – the dry phase of a global cycle driving our climate. The wet La Niña phase of the ENSO cycle is also becoming more intense, leading to increasing frequency and size of large rainstorms. These wash away huge amounts of soil (and with it, valuable nutrients), which then ends up in the rivers causing sedimentation and flooding downstream.
The most important group of tree species in the rainforests of Borneo are the dipterocarps, which includes some of the largest forest species that grow in the tropics. In fact, Borneo hosts the greatest diversity and abundance of dipterocarps in the world – but they are suffering severely from the threats outlined above. The reduced recruitment of new seedlings and regeneration of older trees could have potentially disastrous implications. The future of the dipterocarps is at risk beyond the current generation unless restorative intervention is carried out (click here for more information).
Indonesia’s government has put plans for climate change management into effect, stressing the importance of conservation and utilization of the natural environment to support sustainable economic growth and the increased welfare of the people. Main programs include working on pollution and emission controls, reducing deforestation, peat lands management improvements and environmental rehabilitation. Indonesia and Australia are also working together to protect the forests of Kalimantan, the part of Borneo that belongs to Indonesia.