Sunday, June 1, 2008

Borneo - Deforestation and endangered species

Borneo is the third largest island in the world, rich with wildlife. This is an area extremely rich with biodiversity, with many endemic species of plants and animals. In short period of just ten years, between 1994 and 2004, 361 new species were identified and described, with thousands more still not have been studied. Borneo is also a home of many famous endangered species such as orangutans, elephants and rhinos. Among relatively unknown endangered animals here also live the clouded leopard, the sun bear and endemic Bornean gibbons.

Borneo was once (around 1950) covered extensively with tropical rainforests but ever-increasing rate of deforestation in the last 50 years shrank rapidly area of ancient Borneo's forests.

This picture shows the effects of deforestation in Borneo since 1950, and the estimations for 2010 and 2020.

The main reason for such excessive deforestation are palm oil plantations that have now replaced many ancient forest areas. Big forest fires that happened in 1997 and 1998 were also responsible for significant loss of rainforest in Borneo.

Forests are home for many different animal and plant species, but are being are burned, logged and cleared, in order to make way for agricultural land. This of course threatens Borneo's rich biodiversity and Borneo's wildlife is under great threat. If the current rate of deforestation continues, many species will perish, some even before we had the chance to study them. Forests are not only important because of different species that use them as their habitats, but also because of CO2 absorption which is vital in fight against global warming. Unfortunately, experts do not think that the current rate of deforestation will decrease as the domestic population on island constantly grows, and this will lead to even higher demand for agricultural land. This puts this unique biodiversity heaven under great threat, and gives little hope to conservation efforts.

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