Background

Background

The Island of Sulawesi (17.46 million ha) is the world’s 11th largest island. Its highest peak is 3,478 metres. It is the 4th largest and 3rd most populated island in Indonesia, with a population of approximately 17 million.

Sulawesi is part of Wallacea, which means that it contains a mix of both Asian and Australasian species. As a result, it supports a remarkable, globally significant diversity of terrestrial flora and fauna, as well as extremely rich coastal and marine life. The unique “k”-like shape of the island means that it boasts 6,000 km of coastline, which nurture large areas of seagrass and coral reefs. These habitats are home to a variety of sea turtle species, dugongs and six of the world’s giant clam species.

Sulawesi has been highlighted by various authors and across multiple evaluation criteria as a globally important conservation area. As outlined by Cannon et. al., its global significance owes to a combination of factors, including: (i) a long history as a large oceanic island; (ii) a position at the biogeographic crossroads between East Asia and Australasia, and; (iii) a complex geology, including the large mafic outcrops in the world. These characteristics have resulted in high levels of endemism, particularly of the fauna, at both the continental and local scales.

Sulawesi retains large areas of tropical forest, together with an impressive variety of forest ecosystems. As of 2011, 11.58 million ha. were classified as forest based on Forestry Ministerial Decrees. According to a 2012 report, Sulawesi’s forest ecosystems may be broken down into two broad eco-regions: (i) Sulawesi lowland rainforest and (ii) Sulawesi montane rainforest. However, a more fine-grained analysis breaks down the island’s forests into a remarkable 18 distinct ecosystem.

This wide range of forest types is a key reason for the island’s high rates of endemism and species-level biodiversity; for example, at least 5,076 species of vascular plants occur on the island. The percentage of Sulawesi’ species that is endemic is exceptionally high; for example, of the island’s 127 known mammal species, 72 are endemic (62%). These two include two wild cattle species, lowland and mountain anoa (Bubalus depressicomis, Bubalus quarlessi), babirusa (Babyrusa babyrousa), Sulawesi palm civet (Macrogalidia musschenbroeckii) and crested black macaque (Macaca tonkeana). If bats are excluded, the rate of endemism rises to 98%. In addition, 34% of the nearly 1,500 bird species recorded on the island are endemic. Given how poorly the island’s biodiversity has been studied, it seems highly likely that many species remain to be discovered.

Regardless of whether a broader or more fine-tuned classification system is used, forest ecosystems across the island have been lost and/or degraded at an alarming rate. In terms of eco-regions, an estimated 59.2% of the island’s lowland rainforests has suffered from severe degradation, due to intensive development activities and human-induced threats. In the case of the montane rainforest ecoregion, the percentage of disturbed ecosystems was estimated at 28.2%.

In order to conserve Sulawesi’s globally significant biodiversity from those threats, the Indonesian government has established a network of 63 land protected areas (PAs) and six marine PAs on the island since 1982. These PAs cover a total area of 1,601,109 ha – representing 9.2% of the island’s total land area and 14.2% of total forest area.

Such effort is still far from adequate, since the existing PAs only represented around 10% of the varied important ecosystem in Sulawesi. In addition, protection and management of existing PAs has not been adequate to prevent extensive encroachment and damage within PA boundaries, whilst natural areas beyond PA boundaries have been even more rapidly degraded as a result of logging, conversion, mining, fire and hunting. This latter process only serves further to degrade the PAs themselves, as they become isolated and lose connectivity with adjacent formerly natural areas. Rural populations have grown rapidly. Poverty levels remain high and there is substantial pressure on resources of wood and other forest products or land for extension of agriculture – originally coconuts but increasingly also cloves, coffee and cacao. Such developments have led to the fragmentation and degradation of natural areas and the isolation of PAs within landscapes. Only the largest PAs contain viable representative ecosystem and some of the smaller yet important reserves will only survive with strong protection and specific management focused on target species and landscape-level connectivity.

PA system sustainability depends not only on effective management of PAs themselves, but also on the management of surrounding areas, including buffer zones and beyond. The long-term solution to conserving Sulawesi’s biodiversity is an improved PA system that is well integrated into its surrounding landscape, with the capacities and financial resources to safeguard biodiversity from existing and future threats. Baseline activities, although significant, are deemed insufficient to achieve the above solution.

Meanwhile, the technical and financial capacity of the government in maintaining existing PAs is very limited. Management of existing PAs has not been adequate to prevent extensive encroachment and damage within PA boundaries. The government needs every support it can get to strengthen the management effectiveness and sustainable financial of Sulawesi’s PA system to respond to existing and future threats. One method to support this is through foreign aid project.The Island of Sulawesi (17.46 million ha) is the world’s 11th largest island. Its highest peak is 3,478 metres. It is the 4th largest and 3rd most populated island in Indonesia, with a population of approximately 17 million.

Sulawesi is part of Wallacea, which means that it contains a mix of both Asian and Australasian species. As a result, it supports a remarkable, globally significant diversity of terrestrial flora and fauna, as well as extremely rich coastal and marine life. The unique “k”-like shape of the island means that it boasts 6,000 km of coastline, which nurture large areas of seagrass and coral reefs. These habitats are home to a variety of sea turtle species, dugongs and six of the world’s giant clam species.

Sulawesi has been highlighted by various authors and across multiple evaluation criteria as a globally important conservation area. As outlined by Cannon et. al., its global significance owes to a combination of factors, including: (i) a long history as a large oceanic island; (ii) a position at the biogeographic crossroads between East Asia and Australasia, and; (iii) a complex geology, including the large mafic outcrops in the world. These characteristics have resulted in high levels of endemism, particularly of the fauna, at both the continental and local scales.

Sulawesi retains large areas of tropical forest, together with an impressive variety of forest ecosystems. As of 2011, 11.58 million ha. were classified as forest based on Forestry Ministerial Decrees. According to a 2012 report, Sulawesi’s forest ecosystems may be broken down into two broad eco-regions: (i) Sulawesi lowland rainforest and (ii) Sulawesi montane rainforest. However, a more fine-grained analysis breaks down the island’s forests into a remarkable 18 distinct ecosystem.

This wide range of forest types is a key reason for the island’s high rates of endemism and species-level biodiversity; for example, at least 5,076 species of vascular plants occur on the island. The percentage of Sulawesi’ species that is endemic is exceptionally high; for example, of the island’s 127 known mammal species, 72 are endemic (62%). These two include two wild cattle species, lowland and mountain anoa (Bubalus depressicomis, Bubalus quarlessi), babirusa (Babyrusa babyrousa), Sulawesi palm civet (Macrogalidia musschenbroeckii) and crested black macaque (Macaca tonkeana). If bats are excluded, the rate of endemism rises to 98%. In addition, 34% of the nearly 1,500 bird species recorded on the island are endemic. Given how poorly the island’s biodiversity has been studied, it seems highly likely that many species remain to be discovered.

Regardless of whether a broader or more fine-tuned classification system is used, forest ecosystems across the island have been lost and/or degraded at an alarming rate. In terms of eco-regions, an estimated 59.2% of the island’s lowland rainforests has suffered from severe degradation, due to intensive development activities and human-induced threats. In the case of the montane rainforest ecoregion, the percentage of disturbed ecosystems was estimated at 28.2%.

In order to conserve Sulawesi’s globally significant biodiversity from those threats, the Indonesian government has established a network of 63 land protected areas (PAs) and six marine PAs on the island since 1982. These PAs cover a total area of 1,601,109 ha – representing 9.2% of the island’s total land area and 14.2% of total forest area.

Such effort is still far from adequate, since the existing PAs only represented around 10% of the varied important ecosystem in Sulawesi. In addition, protection and management of existing PAs has not been adequate to prevent extensive encroachment and damage within PA boundaries, whilst natural areas beyond PA boundaries have been even more rapidly degraded as a result of logging, conversion, mining, fire and hunting. This latter process only serves further to degrade the PAs themselves, as they become isolated and lose connectivity with adjacent formerly natural areas. Rural populations have grown rapidly. Poverty levels remain high and there is substantial pressure on resources of wood and other forest products or land for extension of agriculture – originally coconuts but increasingly also cloves, coffee and cacao. Such developments have led to the fragmentation and degradation of natural areas and the isolation of PAs within landscapes. Only the largest PAs contain viable representative ecosystem and some of the smaller yet important reserves will only survive with strong protection and specific management focused on target species and landscape-level connectivity.

PA system sustainability depends not only on effective management of PAs themselves, but also on the management of surrounding areas, including buffer zones and beyond. The long-term solution to conserving Sulawesi’s biodiversity is an improved PA system that is well integrated into its surrounding landscape, with the capacities and financial resources to safeguard biodiversity from existing and future threats. Baseline activities, although significant, are deemed insufficient to achieve the above solution.

Meanwhile, the technical and financial capacity of the government in maintaining existing PAs is very limited. Management of existing PAs has not been adequate to prevent extensive encroachment and damage within PA boundaries. The government needs every support it can get to strengthen the management effectiveness and sustainable financial of Sulawesi’s PA system to respond to existing and future threats. One method to support this is through foreign aid project.