ABOUT THE RAINFOREST
What Life exists in the Indonesian Rainforest?
Indonesia has the world’s largest archipelago of almost 18,000 islands which span between the Pacific and Indian Oceans, containing the third largest area of rainforest in the world. However the majority of the rainforest is found on just four of these islands, Borneo, Sumatra, Sulawesi and New Guinea.
Indonesia’s rainforests are one of Earth’s most biologically and culturally rich landscapes, home to over 3,000 species of animal, 15,000 known species of plants and hundreds of distinct Indigenous languages. When including both land and sea ecosystems, Indonesia has more species than any country on Earth. More than 400 plant species have been identified since 1995, 50 of these completely new to science. (WWF)
The rainforests of Sumatra are now the only place left on Earth where orangutans, tigers, rhinos, sun bears and elephants live together. Sadly the Javan rhino, Sumatran rhino, orangutans, pygmy elephants and Sumatran tiger are now critically endangered. Tigers in Bali and Java now extinct.
Deforestation in Borneo and Sumatra
Borneo is the largest island in Indonesia and the third largest in the world, home to 18 million people. A century ago, most of Borneo was covered in forest but only half remains today; over a third of which have disappeared in the last 30 years. A 2012 study by WWF projected that if current deforestation rates continue, 21.5 million hectares will be lost between 2007 and 2020, reducing the remaining forest cover to 24 per cent. If this is the case, then Borneo, the world’s third largest island could lose most of its lowland rainforests outside of protected areas by 2020.
Sumatra is the world’s sixth largest island, home to over 50 million people, the forth most populous island in the world. The rainforest of Sumatra is highly endangered and is disappearing faster than the other forest in Indonesia. Charities are working hard to protect the tropical lowland rainforest of the Leuser Ecosystem in North Sumatra; the last place on Earth where orangutans, rhinos, elephants, tigers and sun bears roam side by side.
What Drives this Rapid Deforestation?
There is heavy global demand for commodities such as plywood, hardwood, pulp, paper, rubber, coal, coffee and palm oil. The natural resources of Borneo and Sumatra have attracted large scale international financing focused on extractive industries for these commodities.
Unsustainable logging, plantations, agriculture, mining, fire and urbanisation, combined with corruption and poorly enforced policies has resulted in large corporate companies taking advantage and grabbing the land and resources. The roads built by logging companies provides further access to the forest for miners, plantation developers, farmers and illegal loggers.
Poverty also drives the local communities to exploit the rainforest.With insufficient economic alternatives, illegal logging has become way of life for some communities. Satellite studies have shown that 56% of protected rainforest (an area the size of Belgium!) had been illegally cut down between 1985 and 2001 in Kalimantan, Sumatra.
Although there are many key drivers of deforestation in Indonesia, the palm oil industry is the main driver.
How Does this Impact Us and Our Planet?
Our global demand for palm oil, hardwoods, paper and the natural resources of Indonesia combined with unsustainable practices is causing alarming deforestation rates which result in huge negative impacts locally and globally for people, animals and the climate.
The Local Effect on People
The forests reduce soil erosion, landslides, flooding and drought, whilst also providing medicine and food and so loosing the rainforest is having a huge effect on locals already.
According to the authoritative Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity initiative, the forests of Indonesia provide innumerable services, which account for 75% of the GDP of Indonesia’s rural poor. Currently 99 million Indonesians are dependent on the rainforest for their livelihoods, accounting for 21% of Indonesia’s GDP. For many centuries indigenous people have lived in harmony with the rainforest and been sustained by them and only now is their economic value being realised as the continued clearing is also causing serious economic loss.
Mass deforestation is causing skyrocketing environmental and social problems. Social conflict between communities that depend on the forest and large corporations is rife. Pesticides are polluting waters and local soils. Burning to clear rainforest creates thick smoke, creating public health alerts and the shut down of regional air traffic.
The Effect on Wildlife
The rainforest has become fragmented from deforestation. Large animals such as Orangutans and Elephants require vast, in-tact areas in order to survive. Borneo and Sumatra have many critically endangered species, such as the Orangutan, Pygmy elephant, tiger and rhino. Wildlife trade is a major problem too. The growing number of roads from the logging industry, through protected areas has facilitated easy access for poachers.
Rainforest and peatland absorb and store billions of tons of carbon and so loss of it releases huge amounts back into the atmosphere, which creates significant impacts on the global climate and therefore a significant impact on us! Indonesia is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, with 85% of its emissions coming from the degradation and loss of rainforest and peatland.
Forest conservation in Borneo and Sumatra is key. New protected areas need to be created as the current network of protected areas are too fragmented and vulnerable to threats to be saved.
The Rainforest needs to survive in order to protect the wildlife and people that depend on it as well help our global climate.