Protecting tropical trees in Sumatra

A series of biodiversity surveys in Indonesia’s Kerinci Seblat National Park are helping scientists develop conservation action plans to protect endemic species.

Fauna & Flora International’s Indonesian team are conducting a series of biodiversity surveys in the tropical forests of Kerinci Seblat National Park near Jambi, on the island of Sumatra.

The lush, tropical national park, the largest in Sumatra, is home to hundreds of endangered, endemic and protected fauna and flora, including the Sumatran tiger, Sumatran elephants, Malayan tapir, and the Critically Endangered dark red meranti tree (Shorea singkawang).

The dark red meranti tree is of huge value to the local communities living in and around the national park’s buffer zone. The trees timber, a light hardwood, is used for furniture, interior finishings, doors, and veneers and its seed produces an oil similar to cocoa butter. Communities collect and sell the wild seeds – known locally as kawang – to sell in markets.

The dark red meranti - Shorea singkawang. Credit: Arif Hamidi/FFI

The dark red meranti – Shorea singkawang. Credit: Arif Hamidi/FFI

The survey was conducted in five 2km transects that had been identified as areas that include important species of high conservation value. Scientists used the Stand Basal Area which is the cross-sectional area of trees at breast height per hectare of forest, to measure occurrence, and found the dark red meranti in only 16 stands per hectare.

The survey area included ridges, valleys and streams, with the species only found on well-drained hilly-lowland forest near streams.

Anecdotal evidence from local communities tells us it’s harder to find dark red meranti now than it used to be. Scientists attribute this to deforestation due to illegal logging and reduced habitat from timber and oil palm plantations.

Through ongoing surveys, Fauna & Flora International hope to discover more endemic, threatened, and protected species in Kerinci Seblat National Park landscape, with data collected used to design best management practices conservation plans to improve habitat quality and continue to protect the endangered and endemic fauna and flora.