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Biodiversity inventory and monitoring to conserve critically threatened lowland forest in Sumatra

Biodiversity inventory and monitoring to conserve critically threatened lowland forest in Sumatra
Students and staff gather around the first load of herbarium specimens drying in the purpose-built drier at Harapan base camp. Photo: A. Moore

The dry lowland rainforests of Sumatra are among the most biologically diverse yet most critically threatened habitats on earth. From an estimated 16 million hectares in 1900 there now remains only 500,000 hectares. In 2007, the management rights to one of the largest tracts of unprotected, dry, lowland forest remaining were secured by a consortium comprising Burung Indonesia, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and BirdLife International. This area, named Harapan Rainforest after the Indonesian word for 'hope', covers 101,000 hectares of previously logged forest and is being managed for forest restoration with a view to returning the whole of the forest to its original condition.

Harapan Rainforest has an active research and conservation program to support the management objectives in the restoration, rehabilitation and conservation of this forest. The research programme has, so far, focused on biodiversity surveys and training forest patrol staff. The Darwin Initiative has provided specific funds to undertake biodiversity baseline surveys of a wide range of taxa across the variety of habitats in the forest and to establish a monitoring system for the conservation of this threatened habitat.

Forest patrol staff have already received training in plant collecting and herbarium techniques by means of a course led by Kew and Herbarium Bogoriense (Indonesia). A permanent research team including forest patrol staff is now in place and an on-site herbarium has been established. Plant collections have been received at Kew and Bogor and have been named by staff at both institutes.

Kew has recently received funding from Defra to develop a vegetation map for the Harapan project. Using data from the Harapan consortium, the GIS unit at Kew will produce an initial vegetation map which will then be 'ground-truthed' by staff from Harapan, Kew and Bogor in Harapan early in 2012. The staff will conduct a vegetation survey to check that the forest type and species composition matches the initial map. This will then provide an excellent baseline study for further survey work and conservation efforts once the required funding is obtained.

Project partners and collaborators




Burung Indonesia


BirdLife International

Project funders


Darwin Initiative, DEFRA


Conservation International

Project team


Timothy Utteridge, Alison Moore, Gemma Bramley, Rogier de Kok, Marie Briggs, Justin Moat, Steven Bachman