Kerangas “The Land which cannot Grow Rice”

Research Blog

Written by Yohanes Prahara (BNF’s Content Creator)

The Central Borneo landscape encompasses expanses of peatland, and Kerangas forests, areas vital for biodiversity and ecosystem conservation. Peat swamp forests occur when waterlogged tropical forests prevent dead leaves and wood from fully decomposing, creating a thick layer of acidic peat. The Kerangas is derived from the Dayak Iban language which means “The Land Which Cannot Grow Rice”. Kerangas is a distinct, fragile type of tropical rainforest commonly found in Borneo, which after being cut down or burned cannot be cultivated as it has podzol soil with a pH of 3-4 and low nutritional content.

Borneo Nature Foundation (BNF) in collaboration with the University of Muhammadiyah Palangka Raya (UMP) conducted research on the Kerangas Forest area located in the Rungan Landscape, Central Kalimantan.


Kerangas Forest in Rungan Landscape, there is a lot of big trees and small black river with white and black soil.
Photo by Markurius Sera | BNF

In Central Kalimantan, the Rungan Landscape covers 3 particular areas; the Regency of Pulang Pisau, the Regency of Gunung Mas, and the City of Palangka Raya. According to data from BNF available in the Rungan Report 2019, the total area of ​​Kerangas in this area is 36,131 Ha, divided into Mixed Kerangas (57,194 Ha) and Flat-stunted Kerangas (19,706 Ha).

Rungan Landscape area is a mixed mosaic forest structure, with five habitat sub-types described in the Rungan forest, using the habitat plots established during the fieldwork, including black soil forest, white soil forest, low swamp forest, mixed swamp forest and riverine forest.

BNF researcher, Namrata Anirudh stated that “a lot of flora and fauna only exist in the Kerangas ecosystem. Therefore, it is very important to preserve the Kerangas region for the conservation of biodiversity, endangered species, and ironwood forests”.

According to Nam, local people used to consider Kerangas as nutrient-deficient land, not suitable for cultivation, therefore not preserved, however, Kerangas is a key habitat for the critically endangered Orangutan.

In addition to Orangutans, Kerangas is also home to an array of biodiversities, such as the elusive Bornean wild cats, numerous fruits, mushrooms, and endemic plants such as the Semar Bag tropical pitcher plant (Nepenthesspp), and Geronggang (Cratoxylum arborescens).

BNF is currently working with the Central Kalimantan Forestry and Natural Resources Agency to implement field surveys in the key concessions. Mapping the orangutan population distribution across the landscape is an important preliminary step before discussing conservation initiatives with the concessionaries and implementing corridors or HCV Areas.

BNF would like to thank the Arcus Foundation, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Rainforest Trust, The Orangutan Project and Fondation Ensemble for supporting the activities undertaken in the Rungan Landscape.

The flat-headed cat is one of five wild cats that inhabit Rungan Landscape
Photo by Bernat Ripoll Capilla | BNF