Restorasi Ekosistem Riau Maintains Biodiversity Protection and Research Progress in 2020
- Field teams identified 26 more plant and animal species during the year, increasing the total to 823
- Highlights include supporting a Ministry of Environment and Forestry initiative to return a rehabilitated Sumatran tiger into the wild
A further increase in the number of newly identified plant and animal species, continued research into the area’s biodiversity and supporting the release of a rehabilitated Sumatran tiger are some of the highlights covered in the latest Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER) 2020 Progress Report.
The RER program focuses on the protection of 150,693 hectares – an area about the size of London – of ecologically fragile peatland rainforest on the East coast of Sumatra, located on the Kampar Peninsula and nearby Padang Island. Set up in 2013, it is one of the largest private sector-led ecosystem restoration initiatives in Southeast Asia.
The progress in 2020 was achieved despite the impact of the pandemic. As Bey Soo Khiang, Chairman of the Restorasi Ekosistem Riau Advisory Board, notes in his introduction to the report: “No one needs reminding that 2020 was one of the more difficult years that people and communities have encountered in recent times. It was no different for Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER), where the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic tested our resolve and resilience.”
“While some programs or initiatives were interrupted or postponed during the year, I am proud to report that despite the challenges posed by travel restrictions and social distancing, our people maintained their focus and well-being and achieved remarkable progress in difficult circumstances,” he added.
26 more plant and animal species identified
A total of 823 plant and animal species have now been identified inside the RER area as of 31 December 2020, up from 797 at the end of the previous year. This included 76 mammal species, 308 bird species, 101 species of herpetofauna and 192 species of plants. Many of these are of conservation concern, with 66 listed on the IUCN Red List as being vulnerable (39), endangered (17) or critically endangered (10).
The 57 recorded species of Odonata, an order of flying insects that includes dragonflies and damselflies, were identified in the first of four planned Odonata surveys. Of this number, nine species were recorded for the first time in Riau, four were first recorded in Sumatra, and one species of Amphicnemis bebar, was recorded for the first time in Indonesia.
Sumatran tiger release
The RER teams also took part in the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s efforts to return a Sumatran tiger, named Corina, into the wild. The endangered animal was found early in 2020 trapped in a local plantation on the Kampar Peninsula. The RER restoration area became the location of Corina’s release after a series of studies taking into account the forest’s natural condition, the presence of prey species and active protection efforts, as well as relatively low potential interaction with humans.
Eco-Research Camp completed
After four years of planning and construction, the APRIL Eco-Research Camp, or Eco-Camp, was completed in 2020. The Eco-Camp provides an operational base and field office for the RER program and will serve as a peatland science hub where students, researchers and company representatives and stakeholders can research further opportunities to responsibly manage Indonesia’s tropical peatland resources.
Biodiversity research and monitoring continues
Ongoing research efforts included the monitoring of raptor bird migration, recording a total of 302 birds, as well as the Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) that monitored 440 birds from eight species in a day. An occupancy survey for the Sumatran Tiger on the Kampar Peninsula was concluded in March 2020. This survey forms part of the Sumatra Wide Tiger Survey (SWTS).
A further biodiversity monitoring project, the Edge Effect Study, continued this year. The study is investigating mammal and bird species richness across the edge or interface between RER’s peat swamp forest and the adjacent Acacia plantation.
Read the 2020 RER Progress Report.