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In 2012, Indonesia broke the record for tropical forest clearing. Stories of the haze from burning forest and peatland blanketing South East Asia are common, and awareness of the economic and health hazards that this creates is growing.

Over 63 percent (82.9 million hectares) of Indonesia’s Forest Estate is currently deforested or degraded and many iconic species such as orangutans and proboscis monkeys have become endangered as a result. Indonesia faces a challenge to reduce these environmental effects while achieving development goals for oil palm, timber plantations and energy production. These goals are coupled with increasing industry and international demand and are important for securing economic growth for Indonesia.

The Indonesian government has expressed plans to reforest 2.5 million hectares of previously degraded land annually in conjunction with a reduction in carbon emission by 41 percent by 2020. There is a particular focus on reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

CEED researchers have become involved by lending expertise in clearly defining and solving land use problems with multiple objectives and constraints. CEED PhD student and Indonesian national, Sugeng Budiharta of The University of Queensland and colleagues have tackled the difficult problem of prioritising reforestation efforts, given the goals of sequestering carbon and restoring biodiversity. This research has identified 400,000 hectares of highly degraded lowland forest in East Kalimantan where restoration would be cost-effective.

One of the more interesting findings in this study revealed highly degraded areas should not be converted to other land uses, such as palm oil. The research instead suggests these areas could be the focus of privately funded ecosystem restoration concessions (ERC) thereby contributing to the Indonesian government’s reforestation target (currently only 397,000 hectares of ERC licenses have been granted).

This research has been highlighted in both “The Jakarta Globe” and “Mongabay” (a highly cited environmental science conservation news site for information on tropical forests, conservation, and wildlife).

Related links:

Budiharta, S. et al. 2014. Restoring degraded tropical forests for carbon biodiversity. Envrionmental Research Letters  9 (11) 114020. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/9/11/114020

Indonesia's reforestation dilemma, by Erik Meijaard for The Jakarta Globe, 27 November 2014.

Expand, not just extend, forestry moratorium, by Sugeng Budiharta for The Jakarta Post, 25 May 2015.

Research theme: Environmental policy and management evaluation (A)

Photo: Reforestation project in Kalimantan, World Resources Institute, Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 (https://flfl ic.kr/p/nE2wU3)