People, Planet, Asia Pacific

Ecosystem restoration program works to protect peatlands in Indonesia

April Group | Oct 11, 2018

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Indonesia’s peatland forests are some of the most sensitive and biodiversity-rich ecosystems in the world. The Kampar Peninsula in Sumatra, Indonesia, represents one of the last remaining Sundaic lowland tropical peat forests, providing forest habitat for various endangered species whilst protecting significant amounts of carbon.

Five years ago, Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER) was set up as a collaborative project to bring together private and public sector organisations to protect and restore forest in this unique environment.

Located on Sumatra’s eastern coastline, RER comprises 150,000 hectares of peatland forest, of which 130,000 hectares sits at the heart of a 344,570 hectare forest block located on the Kampar Peninsula – an area about twice the size of Singapore . A further 20,000 hectares are located on the nearby Padang Island.

Set-up by APRIL Group, a leading producer of fibre, pulp and paper, RER is managed under 60-year ecosystem restoration licenses issued by the Government of Indonesia. A key element of the program is the use of an integrated production-protection ring landscape model, where plantation operations on the perimeter of the restoration area not only provide protection from fire and encroachment, but support ecosystem restoration and forest protection.

Years of experience have shown that this is the most reliable, consistent and effective economic model for restoration in Indonesia, especially given the extent of the human, financial and technical resources that are required for  active forest and land management.

The RER program has achieved some extraordinary results since work began, including the documenting the presence of hundreds of species of fauna and flora and the total absence of fire from the concessions.

As of June 2018, there are now 757 recorded plants and animal species resident in the RER area, on the Kampar Peninsula.  Of the 757 species identified, 304 are birds, 107 are amphibians and reptiles, 71 are mammals and 89 are fish. The remaining 186 species are trees and plants.

This builds on RER’s initial biodiversity count totaling 519 species, documented in its ‘Biodiversity of the Kampar Peninsula’ report, published in November 2016 following field studies conducted by RER partner Fauna & Flora International (FFI) in 2015.

The new total is the result of continued biodiversity monitoring by RER field teams, utilising camera traps and ocular surveys.

RER teams also go to great lengths to ensure that traditional community activities like fishing and the gathering of honey are protected and local businesses are supported. With the help FFI and social NGOs BIDARA and Laskar Alam, RER has established sound working relationships with the communities.

The RER program is part of APRIL’s commitment to conserve one hectare of natural forest for every hectare of fibre plantation. To date, APRIL has achieved 83% of its goal with more than 400,000 hectares of natural forest protected and conserved. The RER program is supported by a US$100 million investment by APRIL to support and secure long-term conservation and restoration initiatives, which was announced in 2015.

For more information, please visit rekoforest.org.

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