Threats to Borneo forests
The Heart of Borneo under siege
The arrival of 2 alien intruders in the 1950s – the chainsaw and the caterpillar tractor – have perhaps made more impact than any other introduced species. Since then, the opening up of new roads has been a key factor changing Borneo. Roads not only provide access to commercially valuable trees, they also allow immigrant settlers, hunters and land speculators to access new areas of opportunities.
Deforestation closes in on the Heart of BorneoIn Bornean Malaysia, Sabah's and Sarawak's vibrant economies have brought palm oil plantations to the periphery of the Heart of Borneo, and created markets for forest products. In Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo), human population pressure is bringing the frontier of smallholder forest concessions uneasily closer to the Heart of Borneo.
The lure of illegal loggingIllegal logging has become a way of life for some communities, with timber being taken from wherever it is accessible, sold to collectors and processed in huge sawmills. In the absence of sufficient alternative economic development, this is an irresistible lure for the local communities...
Scale of the problemSatellite studies show that some 56% of protected lowland tropical rainforests in Kalimantan were cut down between 1985 and 2001 to supply global timber demand – that’s more than 29,000 km² (almost the size of Belgium). Protection laws are in effect throughout Borneo, but are often inadequate or are flagrantly violated, usually without any consequences.
Oil palm development contributes to deforestation - directly and indirectly. About half or 3.3 million ha of all presently productive plantations (6.8 million ha) were established in secondary forest and bush areas in Malaysia and Indonesia.
During the forest fires of 1997/98, plantation expansion was one of the main causes of the rampant forest fires and subsequent haze that spread from plantations into adjacent natural forests. Six and a half million ha of land were burned in Kalimantan alone, nearly half of which was forest covered.
In the wake of tropical deforestationWithout the maintenance of very large blocks of inter-connected forest, there is a clear risk that hundreds of species could become extinct. Large mammals such as orang-utans and elephants are particularly affected because of the vast areas they require to survive. For example, the Borneo elephant has increasingly come into conflict with the expansion of human agriculture activities in its natural habitat.
Other smaller species, especially small mammals, may not be able to recolonize isolated patches of suitable habitat and thus will become locally extinct. Road construction through protected areas leads to further separation of habitat ranges and provides easy access for poachers to some of the more remote and diverse tracts of remaining virgin forest.