Sulawesi Moist Forests - A Global Ecoregion

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Tropical rainforest stream at 500 meters in the Dumoga National Park. Sulawesi, Indonesia.
© WWF-Canon / Willem F. RODENBURG

About the Area

This global ecoregion is made up of 2 terrestrial ecoregions: Sulawesi lowland rain forests; and Sulawesi montane rain forests.

The Sulawasi lowlands are mainly tropical lowland evergreen and semi-evergreen rainforests, with monsoon forests at the tip of the southeast peninsula and small areas of freshwater and peat swamp forest. They are dominated by 7 species of dipterocarp trees, but also boast palms and ebonies in dense clumps. The Sulawesi montane rain forests, located in the region known as Wallacea, are dominated by oaks and chestnuts.

Many of Sulawesi's species can trace their ancestry to the continents of Asia and Australia. However, its geologic history, and long geographic isolation have given the island its own distinctive fauna. This ecoregion exhibits high plant endemism, and several distinct forest types provide habitat for the highest number of endemic mammals in Asia and numerous endemic birds.

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Size:
192,000 sq. km (74,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Southeast Asia: Sulawesi, a large island to the southeast of Borneo, in Indonesia

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Local Species

Endemic mammal species include the endangered mountain anoa (Bubalus quarlesi), crested macaque (Macaca nigra), vulnerable babirusa (Babyrousa babyrussa), and the Sulawesi montane long-nosed squirrel (Hyosciurus heinrichi)

Also found here and nowhere else are Sulawesi barebacked fruit bat (Dobsonia exoleta), Sulawesi tarsier (Tarsius spectrum), short-tailed Talaud melomys (Melomys caurinus), and Sulawesian palm civet (Macrogalidia musschenbroekii). Other species of interest include Sulawesi tree nymph butterfly (Idea tambusisiana), swallowtail butterfly (Graphium androcles), lowland anoa (Bubalus depressicornis), mountain anoa (B. quarlesi), sailfin lizard (Hydrosaurus amboinensis), and the reticulated python (Python reticulatus).

Amongst the endemic bird species are Sula scrubfowl (Megapodius bernsteinii), bare-faced rail (Gymnocrex rosenbergii), Talaud kingfisher (Todirhamphus enigma), pied cuckoo-shrike (Coracina bicolor), cerulean paradise-flycatcher (Eutrichomyias rowleyi), Sulawesi hornbill (Penelopides exarhatus), henna-tailed jungle-flycatcher (Rhinomyias colonus), and the bare-eyed myna (Streptocitta albertinae).

Featured Species

These lizards have a small head with a long snout and oval nostrils near the tip of the snout. On the head and snout there is a crest of mostly large scales. The body is cylindrical and compressed; the back has a large spine covered with small scales.

The Sailfin lizard’s unique characteristic is its tail, which is twice the length of the head and body put together! The tail starts off thick and round at the base, towards the tip, it becomes flatter, helping the lizard swim. Sailfin lizards grow to over 90 cm (3 ft). These strong built lizards are dark greenish-brown with black spots, and feed mostly on plants and sometimes insects, rodents and millipedes.

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Threats

While many of Indonesia's larger islands suffer from deforestation, Sulawesi still supports extensive tracts of both mountain and lowland moist forests. The island's steep slopes, and the relative lack of commercially valuable tree species, help contribute to the still extensive forests that cover over 60% of the island.

However, the logging that has occurred has had devastating effects on the landscape and the ecosystems. For example, extensive erosion on surrounding deforested slopes has clogged the irrigation systems of the once fertile rice fields of Palu Valley. Hunting and anthropogenic fires are also serious threats to the wildlife and habitat.
 / ©: WWF-Germany / M. RADDAY
Riau province, Sumatra, Indonesia.
© WWF-Germany / M. RADDAY

WWF's work

WWF, engaging with policy-makers and the main producers of palm oil and soy, is trying to bring about the changes necessary to avert the environmental and social problems associated with converting forests to plantation agriculture. WWF and other NGOs are lobbying the Indonesian government to stop granting concessions for forest conversion and land clearing on peatlands.

'Eyes on the Forest', an NGO forest coalition in Sumatra’s Riau Province - consisting of WWF-Indonesia's Tesso Nilo Programme, Jikalahari (Forest Rescue Network Riau) and Walhi Riau (Friends of the Earth Indonesia) - has cited data that shows that the major factor responsible for forest fires in Indonesia during 2006 is forest conversion, mainly on peat soil sites.

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