Our biodiversity monitoring research is leading the field in the tropical forests of Kalimantan. These studies have produced extensive data from a number of forest sites that cover most major animal groups (from birds and reptiles, to butterflies and ants), plus tree and non-tree flora.
In Sabangau, our records stretch back to 1995 and represent the most extensive dataset available for Kalimantan’s peat-swamp forests, and on numerous occasions our surveys have been the first ever conducted in an area.
Our biodiversity research has two primary goals:
- To document and describe biodiversity in Kalimantan’s forests (assessment); and
- To understand how and why forest biodiversity varies over space and time, in response to both natural events and particularly human activities (monitoring).
This is improving our understanding of the forest’s biodiversity value, how this might be translated into benefits for society, and crucially how human activities impact upon these values and benefits. Such understanding is crucial for effective conservation management, in which the impacts of both human threats (e.g. illegal logging) and conservation initiatives (e.g. forest patrols) must be evaluated to improve conservation outcomes.
Examples include studies investigating the impacts of canopy gaps on butterflies, a fish PhD study to support the development of traditional fish ponds as a sustainable livelihood option, plus our preliminary surveys in the Mungku Baru area of the Rungan Forest, which were important in initiating conservation efforts in the region.
In addition to understanding the impacts of human activities on particular plant and animal groups, this research also helps us understand the impacts of these activities on overall forest condition through identifying a suite of ecological disturbance indicators. These indicator taxa show rapid and consistent responses to changes in habitat condition. They therefore serve as early-warning indicators of change that may impact upon flagship conservation species, such as the orangutan, which responds much more slowly to changes in habitat condition.
These concepts are explained in detail in our 2012 monitoring position paper. Examples of suitable indicator taxa include fruit-feeding butterflies, ants, birds and certain forest flora, such as lianas. Check our publications and student projects pages for our latest findings; and contact us if you wish to discuss potential research collaborations or require expert advice.