Biodiversity loss

Eyes on the Forest was originally born to help protect Indonesia’s amazing biodiversity in some of the habitats of Sumatra’s far-ranging umbrella species elephant and tiger under siege by the country’s paper industry.

The extent of Sumatra’s diversity was revealed in a long-term study by Yves Laumonier and Setiabudi who mapped the island’s thirty-eight eco-floristic sectors in the early 1980s. When Laumonier and WWF looked at the eco-floristic sectors’ fate in 2010, much forest had disappeared. The maps of the island’s shrinking biodiversity are an important guide to where government should focus its protection efforts, civil society should focus its investigations, and companies should not develop but protect and/or restore.

Loss of natural forest in Sumatra’s 38 eco-floristic sectors between 1985 and 2009 (WWF Indonesia 2010). To further investigate the eco-floristic sectors, go to EoF interactive map.

Sumatran biodiversity hotspots like Tesso Nilo (Gillison 2001) and Bukit Tigapuluh (Bukit Tigapuluh National Park & Frankfurt Zoological Society 2009) have long been suffering serious deforestation for pulp & paper production and more recently for palm oil and rubber production.

Historical deforestation in Tesso Nilo (left) and Bukit Tigapuluh (right) (Eyes on the Forest, April 2016).

Sumatran elephants suffered most visibly from deforestation. By 2007, the island’s 1985 population had declined to up to half its size, an estimated 2,400 to 2,800 individuals. Most of the 23 “extinctions” of local elephant herds recorded during the time occurred in areas where large areas of forest had been lost or severely fragmented. Human-elephant conflict rather than poaching is believed to be the main cause of elephant death. Riau’s population, faced by the island’s most severe habitat loss, was decimated from >1300 to <200 individuals.

Loss and fragmentation of natural forest and the ranges of Sumatran elephant populations between 1985 and 2007/2008. Natural forest in 1985 (grey) and 2008 (black) are shown with 1985’s elephant ranges which had disappeared by 2008 (red) and the original 1985 elephant ranges (yellow) which had shrunk or become fragmented by 2008 (light blue). For more information, read WWF Indonesia 2010.