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Limestone is an extremely important raw material, used primarily in the construction industry. This rock is an essential ingredient of cement and is also used as both a building and an ornamental stone.
Limestone is of major importance in economic development, with cement production even used as a barometer of growth and progress. For many infrastructure projects – such as dam and bridge construction, port development, and road-building – limestone quarrying is a fundamental, and in most cases irreplaceable, development activity.
But limestone is more than just an industrial resource. It is also the basis for unique ecosystems (such as caves) with characteristic biodiversity which has adapted to the sometimes extreme conditions. Many species found in limestone areas can have very small distributions – some invertebrate species are found on just a single hill.
Fauna & Flora International (FFI) has been actively conserving some of the best limestone areas in Asia, to help ensure that they are recognised for their biodiversity value as well as their commercial value.
In China, we are working to protect the limestone ecosystems in Guangxi Province by organising workshops and training on karst management for government and civil society. Our team produced a beautiful book on the area in Chinese. We are also carrying out long-term conservation activities for Critically Endangered primates (such as the cao vit gibbon, Tonkin snub-nosed monkey, and several langur species) and trees in northern Vietnam and China.
Acknowledging the rapidly increasing problem of limestone extraction, FFI and three other major conservation NGOs have produced a joint briefing paper, and IUCN’s Species Survival Commission has formed a Specialist Group for Cave Invertebrates, co-chaired by Fauna & Flora International’s Asia-Pacific Regional Director Tony Whitten and Louis Deharveng from the National Museum of Natural History in Paris.
To learn more about this specialist group, you can download an extract from FFI’s latest Update newsletter (PDF).
To learn more about Asia’s stunning limestone ecosystems download a copy of the FFI limestone brochure.
Nusa Kambangan is an 11,500 hectare limestone island just south of central Java. It has good forest cover in the south and has mangroves in the north. Due to the presence of several prisons on the island, the forest has remained relatively undisturbed compared to Java and it retains some rare and endemic flora and some charismatic fauna such as the milky stork, the lesser adjutant stork and a small number of Critically Endangered Javan leopard. As part of work done with the cement company Holcim Indonesia which has a quarry on the island, FFI discovered 40 species new to science and developed a management plan which is now being implemented by the company. FFI continues to give attention to the endemic plahlar dipterocarp tree with local partners.
This 150,000 hectare protected area of limestone mountains still appears to have a relatively large and viable population of the southern white-cheeked crested gibbon, which is listed as Endangered by the IUCN.
In 2011, FFI and the IUCN initiated activities for the protection of this species and other endemic wildlife using a community-based approach which includes social surveys, awareness-raising, participatory conservation planning and community-based patrols and monitoring.
In partnership with local NGOs, FFI is starting a new initiative to protect endangered primates and trees (such as Critically Endangered conifers and magnolia) at 11 locations within the limestone mountains of north-east Vietnam. We will focus on developing plans for conservation interventions in conjunction with local communities who have had little previous exposure to conservation but whose forests harbour important populations of threatened primates and trees.
The European Commission is funding two initiatives which aim to bring biodiversity into the mainstream of economic and social development in the Chongqing Autonomous Municipality and Guangxi Autonomous Province. In Chongqing, FFI has worked with the Environment Protection Bureau to map the key areas of biodiversity importance, write a strategic action plan, establish a preliminary monitoring system and make biodiversity part of the civil servant’s performance appraisal. Meanwhile, in Guangxi, FFI has worked with the Environment Protection Bureau and the Forestry Bureau to produce a consultative strategic action plan for the karst-rich south-west Guangxi. Together with the Chinese Government we have developed a biodiversity monitoring system and have collaboratively surveyed and formalised a new nature reserve to protect the endangered cao vit gibbon and have strengthened protection in another 14 nature reserves.