Harapan memories and take-away thoughts
Kew staff reminisce on time well spent in the Harapan Rainforest, Sumatra, with a summary of their GIS field mapping, personal accounts and photographs.
The Harapan Rainforest in the Indonesian province of Jambi, Sumatra is one of the few effectively protected areas in the lowlands of Sumatra. It is a former logging concession which has been leased for 99 years by the The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in collaboration with their Indonesian partner, Burung Indonesia. As part of the lease agreement, the area needs to be managed and re-vegetated by the RSPB. In the past Kew has helped to provide some of the botanical background for this project. The project’s primary purpose is to map the remaining vegetation of the project area and provide input and recommendations for restoration and carbon capture at the site.
Memories of the forest
Over 14 days the Harapan Rainforest field teams clocked up:
95 km covered by foot
Eight days boat access to remote sites
One birthday party
187 old secondary forest plots
94 young secondary forest plots
11 very young secondary forest (thicket) plots
28 scrub plots
Five cleared plots
As well as getting a lot of field data recorded we also enjoyed our surroundings, the hospitality of the Harapan Rainforest team, and life in the forest.
Fond memories of fungi from Jenny
In the field I particularly loved the broad range of fungi found throughout Harapan Rainforest. From super tiny (the thickness of a hair) to large carpets. They came in all shapes and sizes...
Fungi in the Harapan Rainforest
Interesting botany bits from Marie
For me it was excellent to visit enough sites to be able to see a pattern evolving between the presence of different species and their associated category of vegetation.
For example swamp forests that included Pandanus species, Barringtonia species, and members of the Anacardiaceae (cashew or sumac) family with their poisonous sap, which is clear at first, and then turns jet black on exposure to air, including Gluta renghas, which reacts with skin and blisters the skin badly. I was really excited to see it as it was a massive tree and hadn’t been cut, presumably because the wood and sap is so poisonous. Despite the poisonous aspect of some of the species of the Anacardiaceae family, I have a real soft spot for them.
Gluta renghas L. - Left: cut, Right: bleeding
I also enjoyed the different types of Macaranga associated with sites of regenerating vegetation. Macaranga gigantea for example, was very clearly a secondary vegetation plant. Many of these species are now committed to memory as we spent so much time looking at them as we traveled backwards and forwards up and down the river each day visiting different sites.
We also encountered an interesting member of the Rubiaceae (coffee) family - at first I thought it was a strangler fig because of its latticed trunk – in the older specimens you could see right through the stem to the other side. It was a massive tree and too high for us to collect from.
We looked through binoculars and managed to find some of the inflorescences (flowers) and leaves on the forest floor. We thought it might be Rubiaceae but no one had come across one like this before. Back in the Herbarium at Kew I was able to identify it as a Pertusadina eurhyncha (Miq.) Ridsdale. There were some very large tree specimens of this species found at different sites so it was very satisfying to be able to put a name on it and, as Pak Deden said when I told him about it: 'It's very good if you identified the tree, because it’s rather common in this area. The tree is very important, because it has a big trunk and a good canopy.'
Pertusadina eurhyncha (Miq.) Ridsdale
The final collection of the trip for our team was a specimen from the Sapindaceae family – a wild lychee or rambutan type plant with the MOST delicious fruits, which were a combination of lovely juicy lychees and blackcurrant sweets. Specimens were made for the Herbarium but we got to eat the left-over fruits – yum yum!
Life in the Harapan Rainforest
The Harapan Rainforest team made us feel really welcome, they worked hard and were a lot of fun in the field. We couldn’t have collected as much data as we did without everyone’s expertise and enthusiasm.
Our Indonesian counterparts were very good company and watchful for our safety. There were so many slippery fallen trunks to cross and small streams to jump in the forest, that there were constant calls of 'hati hati' ('be careful' in Indonesian). Repetition really is the way to learn a different language because if you hear it enough you will learn it.
It was also very kind of the team down at Bato to turn the field office into a room for us ladies too – they provided us with mattresses and it was a comfortable place to lay our heads after a hard day’s work in the field and was quite, ahem, ‘homely’ (messy) after we got our mosquito nets set up and emptied the contents of our bags out.
All in all we came away with many happy memories and friends, as well as very useful data!
Field Team at Bato Camp Harapan Rainforest
The Kew team celebrate the end of the fieldwork with avocado shakes
- Jenny and Marie -
Here are two videos about Harapan Rainforest.
Protecting Sumatra's Ancient Forests
Conservation drone at Harapan Rainforest
Find out more about the project
- Have a look at Kew's Harapan project pages
- Read the article in Kew magazine about the expedition
- RSBP's Harapan Rainforest pages
- Expedition and Collection map
- Vegetation maps online