Sumatran Islands Lowland and Montane Forests

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Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), Riau province, Sumatra, Indonesia.
© WWF-Canon / Alain COMPOST

About the Area

This Global ecoregion is made up of 3 terrestrial ecoregions: Sumatran tropical pine forests; Sumatran lowland rain forests; and Sumatran montane rain forests.

These forests are extraordinarily diverse with extensive areas of limestone, supporting high levels of regional and local endemism, and provide one of the last opportunities to conserve populations of Sumatran tigers, Sumatran rhinoceroses (Dicerorhinus sumatrensis), Malaysian Tapirs (Tapirus indicus), and orangutans (Pongo pygmaeus) - barely surviving in the rapidly dwindling forest.
Size:
335,000 sq. km (130,000 sq. miles)

Habitat type:
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests

Geographic Location:
Indonesia: Sumatra and surrounding islands

Conservation Status:
Critical/Endangered

Local Species
Numerous creatures found in this ecoregion are of global importance such as the tiger (Panthera tigris), Asian elephant, Malaysian tapir, orangutan, and the Sumatran rhino.

Orangutans may weigh as much as 90 kg, and they spend most of their lives in trees, making them the largest arboreal mammals in the world. The Malaysian tapir is black-brown with a white ‘saddle’ extending from its shoulders to its hips, and may weigh as much as 320 kg.

Among the numerous endemic birds found in this ecoregion are blue-masked leafbird (Chloropsis venusta), Sumatran drongo (Dicrurus sumatranus), blue-tailed trogon (Harpactes reinwardtii), and the blue-wattled bulbul (Pycnonotus melanoleucus).

More than 100 species of figs grow in the lowland forests and each species is pollinated exclusively by a single species of fig wasp. Also found here are the Rafflesia blossoms which have a distinctive aroma – not unlike rotten meat – which attracts the flies that pollinate them. The Rafflesia plant also produces the largest flower in the world - up to 1 m (3.3 ft) wide. Also found here is Amorphophallus titanium, the world’s tallest flower at nearly 2 m (7 ft) in height. It, too, exudes a fetid odor that attracts pollinators.
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Mike GRIFFITHS
Sumatran tiger (Panthera tigris sumatrae), Sumatra, Indonesia.
© WWF-Canon / Mike GRIFFITHS

Featured Species

Also known as Titan Arum, Bunga Bangkai or simply corpse flower, this plant is famous for the smell it emits when in bloom – variously described as rotting flesh, a dead elephant or rotten eggs! The scent attracts the insects that pollinate it. The bloom typically lasts for one day before the flower falls apart, and it takes several years to produce one bloom. It grows from a large tuber which can reach 80 kg (170 lb).

Said to be the tallest ‘flower’ (in sheer bulk) in the world, it is technically an inflorescence, or cluster of flowers. The flower typically stays open for 2 days. When the flower is fully open, it emits a repulsive scent (hence its Indonesian common name). The odor, strongest at night, is to attract pollinators, which in its Sumatran home are thought to be carrion beetles and sweat bees.

A single huge umbrella-like leaf appears alternately with the flower and is itself spectacularly large. In cultivation it can reach over 3.5 m (12ft), its stalk in the wild can reach 6 m (20 ft) tall and 4.5 m (15 ft) across. The single stalk grows as thick as a person's thigh before branching into a compound leaf. An individual leaf may live for about a year before dying. The tuber then enters a short dormant period before producing another leaf or flower.

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Threats
Between 65 and 80% of these forests have already been lost to agriculture (mainly oil palm plantations) and logging. On the flat lowlands of southern Sumatra, for example, the vast stands of ironwood (Eusideroxylon zwageri), a species of great commercial importance producing an exceptionally durable timber, have been almost entirely destroyed. Sumatra is probably losing its natural vegetation faster than any other part of Indonesia.

WWF’s work
A recent WWF report found that clearing of natural forest for plantations still continues here, despite the fact that it is prohibited by law. WWF's Forest Conversion Initiative works to ensure that expansion of palm oil and soy plantations is not a threat to High Conservation Value Forests - forests of outstanding and critical importance due to their high environmental, socio-economic, biodiversity, or landscape values.

WWF is working with producers, investors, and retailers around the world to identify where these forests are located and, together with relevant stakeholders, to develop sustainable forest management and land use plans for where plantation expansion may take place In partnership with WWF, 4 of the biggest banks in the Netherlands - ABN AMRO, Rabobank, Fortis, and ING - have already agreed to stop or substantially restrict financing for palm oil plantations in Indonesia on environmental and social grounds.

The powerful Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) recently formed a task force to address environmental issues. Working with WWF, the MPOA put forward a proposal for the development of better practices for palm oil both at the landscape and the plantation level. Unilever, a major worldwide consumer as well as a producer of palm oil, is also working with WWF to develop sustainable palm oil production methods.

Read more:
 / ©: WWF-Canon / Mark EDWARDS
Oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) plantations, Sumatra, Indonesia.
© WWF-Canon / Mark EDWARDS
WWF’s work
A recent WWF report found that clearing of natural forest for plantations still continues here, despite the fact that it is prohibited by law. WWF's Forest Conversion Initiative works to ensure that expansion of palm oil and soy plantations is not a threat to High Conservation Value Forests - forests of outstanding and critical importance due to their high environmental, socio-economic, biodiversity, or landscape values.

WWF is working with producers, investors, and retailers around the world to identify where these forests are located and, together with relevant stakeholders, to develop sustainable forest management and land use plans for where plantation expansion may take place In partnership with WWF, 4 of the biggest banks in the Netherlands - ABN AMRO, Rabobank, Fortis, and ING - have already agreed to stop or substantially restrict financing for palm oil plantations in Indonesia on environmental and social grounds.

The powerful Malaysian Palm Oil Association (MPOA) recently formed a task force to address environmental issues. Working with WWF, the MPOA put forward a proposal for the development of better practices for palm oil both at the landscape and the plantation level. Unilever, a major worldwide consumer as well as a producer of palm oil, is also working with WWF to develop sustainable palm oil production methods.

Read more:

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