Collaboration “can save forests and $billions”

Orangutan in Borneo By coordinating conservation and development efforts as well as reforming land-use, Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei could retain up to half of the land of Borneo as forests, protect elephant and orangutan habitats, reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 50 per cent, and possibly significantly reduce the opportunity costs by billions of dollars.

The study, published in the scientific journal Nature Communications, is led by researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions (CEED).

“Borneo is the world’s third largest island – it harbours over 14,000 plant species and 1,600 land animals,” says lead author Ms Rebecca Runting of CEED and The University of Queensland (UQ). “These tropical forests regulate regional and global climate and provide food and income to millions of people.”

Ms Runting explains that the high rates of forest conversion and degradation over previous decades have prompted the three nations to pledge to protect their natural resources, including maintaining between 45 and 75 per cent of the land area of Borneo as forests. At the same time, Malaysia and Indonesia have planned to greatly expand the area of oil palm and timber plantations.

The study reveals that the governments’ current land-use plans are inadequate, and will fall significantly short of meeting their conservation goals.


Photo: Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus), one of the species that would benefit from more coordinated planningPhoto by Dr Erik Meijaard, co-author.