Moluccas Moist Forests - A Global Ecoregion

About the Area

The Moluccan archipelago, which lies between the islands of Sulawesi and New Guinea, includes hundreds of islands ranging in size from 18,000 km2 to uninhabited islets with an area of only a few hectares. Most of the islands are mountainous, some with active volcanoes, and enjoy a wet climate. Also known as the Spice Islands, they have luxuriant vegetation including rainforests, sago, rice, and the famous spices - nutmeg, cloves and mace, among others.

This global ecoregion is made up of 2 terrestrial ecoregions: Seram rain forests; and Halmahera rain forests. Seram is one of the most distinctive islands in the Moluccas island chain with 16 of over 200 bird species endemic. It also is home to the Moluccas’ largest bird, the two-wattled cassowary. The Halmahera rain forests also have a high number of endemic species, with 6 of its 38 mammal species endemic, including the Bisa rat, masked flying fox, and 3 species of cuscus.

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Size:
46,000 sq. km (18,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Southeast Asia: an archipelago in eastern Indonesia

Conservation Status:
Vulnerable

Local Species

The Moluccas are part of a biogeographical zone called 'Wallacea' which contains a mixture of Asian and Australian fauna including macaques, tarsiers (small nocturnal primates), squirrels, and cuscuses (possum-like marsupials related to kangaroos). These forests also contain many interesting species of cockatoos and other parrots.

Moluccan tree species include Damar (Agathis spp.), Batai (Albizzia falcata), Pterocarpus indicus, and Octomeles sumatran. Mammal species endemic to these forests include the Moluccan flying fox (Pteropus chrysoproctus), Ceram bandicoot (Rhynchomeles prattorum), Mansuela melomys (Melomys fraterculus), and the largest native mammal - Ornate cuscus (Phalanger ornatus).

Among the numerous bird species found here are Salmon-crested cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis), Moluccan woodcock (Scolopax rochussenii), Flame-breasted flowerpecker (Dicaeum erythrothorax), Blue-and-white kingfisher (Todirhamphus diops), Grey-collared oriole (Oriolus forsteni), Moluccan scrubfowl (Megapodius wallacei), and Cinnamon-chested flycatcher (Ficedula buruensis).
Salmon-crested cockatoo, Canary Islands, Spain. / ©: WWF-Canon / Roger LeGUEN
Salmon-crested cockatoo, Canary Islands, Spain.
© WWF-Canon / Roger LeGUEN

Featured species

The giant Indonesian Megachile bee (Chalocodoma pluto), previously called Chalicodoma, is a very large resin bee (a leafcutter bee that uses resin to make compartments in its nest). The female is about 39 mm long, has a wingspan of 63 mm, a massive 3 mm wide head, and enormous pointed jaws. She is covered with velvety black fur but has a band of white fur on the front part of her abdomen. The male looks puny beside the female and is only 23 mm long.

The female bee collects bundles of wood fibres for nest building and carries them back to her nest in her jaws. She constructs tunnels and cells by mixing the wood particles with resin. The mixture hardens into a black waterproof material that seals the termites out of the bee’s nest.

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Threats

Indonesia's population is doubling every 30 years. The population increase is leading to exponential increases in natural resource demands. Threats to the ecoregion include logging, tapping of damar trees, and illegal collection of plants and animals. The local commercial wildlife trade, which targets parrots in particular, poses another risk to Seram’s biodiversity. In Halmahera, the eastern forests are threatened by pulp plantations, especially using local transmigrants.

 / ©: WWF-Canon / Rob  BUITER
Tapping of a tree, Indonesia.
© WWF-Canon / Rob BUITER

WWF’s work

WWF Indonesia is working to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem processes within the Sahul region. The project boundaries are the Lesser Sundas to the North Moluccas to the West and the transnational border with Papua New Guinea to the East.

The project aims to reduce development threats to conservation through the sustainable management of forests, wetlands and coastal areas, and bioregional planning, thereby conserving threatened species (birds of paradise, tree kangaroos and turtles) and their habitats.

WWF recognizes that creative solutions must be found to integrate conservation with the other pressing needs of the government of Indonesia and private industry.

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