Nature News – Asia this week…

A week in Asia and Borneo … We have a regular clocking over work in the forest at the moment. Here is an OuTrop original break down by me, detailing break down of some need to know stories – introducing Nature News!

Rhino re-discovery!

On May the 29th, the announcement came from WWF that traces of Rhinos living in Kalimantan, Borneo have recently been re-discovered. This is amazing news. These Sumatran rhinos in Kalimantan promoted public awareness and raised political commitment protect this endangered species and their habitat – hopefully they will be included in the Heart of Borneo project, land-use protocols & spatial plans. The press release generated a big jump in the awareness about preserving the remaining forests in Kalimantan, as you would hope from flagging such an iconic species. As always, public awareness can drive decision makers to take responsive action. WWF-Indonesia carefully considered the impact of the publication of finding these traces. They coordinated with various parties, including the local government, the Forestry Ministry, rhino experts, local university and other related parties to set up strategies and to ensure commitment to full protection of the rhino. A monitoring team involving local communities and central, provincial and district authorities are currently working on securing and monitoring the area.

From April 2013, watch the forests of the world LIVE…
On the 9th of April, the World Resources Institute (WRI) practised using a long-awaited tool.  Global Forest Watch 2.0 could revolutionise global forest monitoring.

Peat-swamp forest

An Indonesian Peat-swamp forest in the dry season.

The UN Forum on Forests meet this week in Istanbul, Turkey, and are keen to comment on Global Forest Watch 2.0. This toll combines almost real time satellite data, forestry data, and information submitted by those using the forests. It uses these data to generate the most complete picture of the world’s forests – the accuracy, potential scale and ‘on the ground’ transparency is brand new. Over the last few years this has been a collaborative effort between WRI and Google, the University of Maryland, the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and others. Global Forest Watch 2.0 will not launch publicly until late 2013, but WRI demonstrated the system that could soon help governments, NGOs, local communities and companies fight deforestation.
To monitor, assess and decrease the amount of deforestation occurring – ultimately to sustainably manage forests – reliable, up-to-date and easily accessible data and information are essential. More information is available here.

Hunting of animals effects plant species – remember ecosystems are linked systems!
An article came out this week emphasising how hunting of tropical and endangered species has an effect – on a lot more species that just the hunted animal!

Monitoring a protected forest in Borneo for over 15 years, a team from the Chinese Academy of Sciences have found that over-hunting has led to persistent changes in tree populations and a decline in local tree diversity over time, according to their study published in Ecology Letters.
“Animals that eat fruit and disperse seeds are particularly sensitive to hunting. So in hunted forests often you find that there are few animals that can disperse seeds, particularly the largest seeds,” Rhett Harrison with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, see here. Additionally, according to Olsson (who has worked and found similar evidence in Nigeria, see Proceedings of the Royal Society B.), there will be a changed tree composition in the years to come, with fewer large-seeded fruiting trees and more wind dispersed species.

Looks like we can add over-hunting to hot topics as well as of deforestation and climate change, all three of which need recognition and a ‘sit up and act’ attitude if we are to get the best possible results from this already sensitive situation. For the moment, it seems less tree species, less forest area and changes in climate (in highly adapted regions) are right around the corner…

Sub-species of orangutan thrown a lifeline by government…

©Photo Thea Powell/OuTrop

The government of Sarawak may not be popular with conservation groups. It has facilitated large-scale logging and conversion of extensive rainforest habitat into various, non-forest, profit making sites. However, now this government says it will protect a population of up to 200 of Bornean orangutans! OuTrop work with the Pongo pygmaeus wurmbii subspecies of orangutan, but this population of Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus is a sub-species even less numerous.
The population was well-known to local Iban communities. According to the Wildlife Conservation Society “The Sarawak government intends to hold a dialogue with local communities and the other key stakeholders to discuss options and to involve them in any conservation effort in the area.” This population were recently identified by conservationists during field surveys conducted in February by the Sarawak Forest Department, Sarawak Forestry Corporation, the Wildlife Conservation Society and Borneo Adventure. Read more here.

Forget computers – Everyone’s gone paper crazy…
There has been lots! of news and development within the global paper industry recently, which seemed to start with Disney announcing they will no longer use APP paper. APP followed suit by attempting to apply to RSPO standards, but aren’t quite perfect yet! Recently another key player in providing paper to the world – International Paper (IP) has promised more sustainable practises, committing to identifying and protecting endangered forests and high conservation value areas in the southern U.S.

After years of not acknowledging activist campaigns and pressure from buyers to be environmentally friendly, International Paper (IP) may have put a foot in the right direction…

Forest areas protected by extra tax
Indonesia’s Ministry of Forestry will raise fees needed to be paid for forest exploitation activities. Before engaging in activities in areas zoned within forest estate, developers are required to obtain use permits. Now, all logging, mining, and oil and gas exploration will have a new tax of four million rupiah ($410 or £267) per hectare , per year – a third higher than the current rate. Hopefully this will increase income from resource use, boosting the government’s non-tax income from the forestry sector to 4-6 trillion rupiah in 2013 and 2014, up from 2012’s 3 trillion.
In just 2.5 months, the Ministry of Forestry has issued 471 mining exploration permits – 2.45 million hectares – of the country’s forest estate and 377 exploitation permits, covering 370,883 ha.
The proposed tax revision still requires sign off from the Ministry of Finance, and is rumoured to be developed at a time when plantation restrictions are being reviewed, read more here.

Hope you enjoyed a slice of Asian recent Ecology Pie News,
Cheers muchly, Thea 🙂

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