Borneo is an island located in Southeast Asia that is part of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei. The island is largely controlled by Indonesia while the country of Malaysia comprises 26% of the island and the small state of Brunei holds the remaining 1% of Borneo land area. It is considered the third-largest island in the world and the largest in Asia. The population of Borneo in 2020 exceeded 23.5 million inhabitants, showing the economy is growing to support the entire population. This population and economic growth has resulted in extremely intensive land use changes across the entire island for human benefit.
What are the dominant biomes and ecoregions in your country? What are their biophysical, climatic, and biogeographic limits? (Due October 7th)
The dominant biomes in Borneo are tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests. While being very similar, the main difference between tropical and subtropical moist forests is their respective temperature and humidity. Tropical moist forests have high temperatures and high humidity while subtropical moist forests have comparatively lower temperatures and less humidity. The climate of these biomes has very low variability in their annual temperatures. Both also have high levels of annual rainfall (>200cm/year). The biogeographic limitations of these biomes are pretty low. These biomes contain the highest levels of species diversity of all terrestrial ecosystems in the world. The perpetual warm, wet climate makes the environment extremely productive and helps promote plant growth, contributing to species richness. The WWF has classified the island into five distinct ecoregions. The most common of the five is the Borneo lowland rain forest ecoregion, but there is also Borneo peat swamp forests, Southwest Borneo freshwater swamp forests, Sunda Shelf mangroves, and The Borneo montane rain forests.
Human intervention in the 20th century has created biophysical limitations in the tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests biomes. The forest composition is generally made up of evergreen, semi-evergreen, and deciduous tree species, including numerous endemic tropical rainforest tree species. This has allowed humans to start deforestation for land use change into plantations, agricultural land or development. While the trees help promote diversity they also promote human economic growth through the economy's dependence on deforestation for income.
- Borneo lowland rain forests:
The Borneo lowland rainforest covers the majority of the island, with an area of 427,500 square kilometers. The climate in the lowlands is pretty stable with a monthly rainfall of more than 8 inches throughout the year. The rainforest in the lowlands has a climatic limit of temperature, which rarely ranges below 18 degrees Celsius.
The biogeographic limitations have increased since the Pleistocene epoch when Borneo was a part of a landmass called Sundaland, which was composed of numerous islands. The landmass eventually split off so plants and animals can't migrate from island to island anymore, however, Borneo has similar diversity to the Malay Peninsula and the other islands. This lowland rainforest is the richest rainfall in the world containing vast biodiversity including 10,000+ plant species, over 350 bird species, and numerous mammal species. The island is also the world's centre of diversity for dipterocarps as it contains 155 endemic tropical rainforest tree species.
The 20th Century has brought many biophysical limitations to the lowland rainforests in Borneo. The climate of Borneo provides an ideal growing environment for tons of flora and fauna. This has led to lots of control and influence by humans in recent decades. Deforestation for rubber, oil palm and timber plantations by humans is the main biophysical limit that occurs. The Borneo lowland rainforest area has a conservation status of being vulnerable due to human interference.
- Borneo peat swamp forests:
Peat swamp forests are very effective carbon sinks that consist of waterlogged vegetation. This ecoregion is primarily found on the coasts of Borneo and has an equatorial and fully humid climate, as classified using the Köppen climate zone system. It's dense accumulation of organic matter only allows it to support a limited number of species, thus influencing the species richness.
- Southwest Borneo freshwater swamp forests:
The Southwest Borneo Freshwater Swamp forest is set back a few kilometers from the ocean by the Sunda Shelf Mangroves. This ecoregion covers numerous disconnected patches of freshwater swamp forest along the southwest coastline. The climate is also pretty stable in this region. The year round temperature is hot and humid with no real dry season. The monthly precipitation exceeds 60mm throughout the year.
Over 14% of this ecoregion in Borneo is officially protected. However, human land use change for agricultural production is the main biophysical limitation. The area has taller trees, soil that is nutrient-rich and less acidic compared to Peat Swamp Forests. This has caused the conversion of land into agricultural land due to its fertility and flat location.
The biogeographic limitations in this ecoregion vary depending on soil nutrient levels and acidity. There are more faunal species than in the peat swamp but it mainly consists of birds and tree and shrub species. The fauna search for this ecoregion because of the increase in agricultural production, which is a source of food for them.
- Sunda Shelf mangroves:
The Sunda Shelf Mangroves are found on the coast of Borneo and have a total area of 37,529 km. They are solely found in tropical regions and have a climatic limit of temperature; they can’t tolerate cold temperatures or fluctuations of more than 10° C.  The Sunda Shelf Mangroves are a particularly diverse forest with five primary mangrove types and are also home to endemic species such as the Proboscis monkey. The greatest biophysical limitations the mangroves face are logging and land clearances. Mangrove forest are being cut down for their timber and firewood, and land is often cleared for agriculture and urban developments. This habitat loss is occurring despite the mangroves being part of Borneo’s protected areas. Conservation of the Sunda Shelf Mangroves is especially important due to its large potential for carbon sequestration and consequent climate change mitigation.
- The Borneo montane rain forests
The Borneo montane rain forests lie in the central highlands of the island, above the 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) elevation. The montane rainforests in Borneo emerge at around 1000m but can grow up to an altitude of 3,300m. They cover an area of 115,078 km2 and span both tropical and alpine climates making climatic limitations of less importance. The rainforests are classed as cloud forests meaning they have frequent low-lying cloud cover and an abundance of mosses covering vegetation. Plant and animal life differs greatly when compared to the lowlands and montane ecosystems are largely stratified. This is because of biogeographic limitations associated with increasing elevation; the soils become poorer and more acidic, and temperatures drop greatly. Despite this, the Borneo montane forests are still one of the most diverse on earth containing many endemic bird species and having both Asian and Australian derived fauna. Biophysical limitations are less of a concern due to the higher elevations of Borneo being inaccessible; over 90% of the rainforest remains intact despite serious wildfires that impact lowland rainforests. However, commercial logging and road building is still a concern and conservation of the forest is increasingly important because it provides refuge for much lowland wildlife that’s habitats are being destroyed. 
Describe patterns of biodiversity in your country. How have biogeography and evolutionary history shaped local diversity? (Due Oct 21)
Borneo contains 3,000 species of trees, 221 species of terrestrial mammals, and 15,000 species of flowering plants. Out of the Sundaland biogeographical region, it is the most biodiverse. Species richness patterns were largely made up of commoner species and high botanical richness was found to be particularly prevalent in central East Kalimantan. Southern Borneo, composed mostly of the peat swamp forest ecoregion, contained low plant species richness. The areas identified as having high biodiversity were found to have everwet climate conditions while areas prone to drought were identified as having lower biodiversity.
Borneo is identified as one of earth’s biodiversity hotspots, making it an extremely diverse and important part of earth’s past and present. Borneo is mostly made of stable tropical forests with a few periods of disturbances. Tectonic activities, which occurred sometime between the Eocene and Pliocene, led to the surfacing of land as well as the central highlands and mountains. The creation of mountains created obstacles which can drive speciation. During the Miocene, large, unbroken evergreen rainforests covered much of Borneo. Over time, climate-driven sea-level changes also flooded part of Borneo, creating wetter regions. Being an island, Borneo is distinct even from close-by islands because of its historical isolation. To add on, due to its size, Borneo also allows for more diversification and wider populations to take place. These biogeographical and evolutionary factors have made Borneo the diverse and unique island it is now.
What role did humans historically play in shaping the ecology of the dominant ecosystems in your country? (Due Nov 4)
Today, Borneo is home to over 18 million people; two thirds of that population is Muslim and approximately 30% are non-Muslim Indigenous people. Indigenous populations have been present as early as 40,000 years ago existing in two main groups of people on the island. One group were the very tribal, lowly populated - Dayak - that inhabited the interior. The Dayak lived in hundreds of tribes, each with their own distinct culture, social orientation and language, throughout the island. They are hunter-gatherers with minimal cultivation practices that also used the coast for overseas trade. The other group were the highly populated Muslim population, who inhabited the coast and floodplains of major rivers. They relied on rice farming and riverside farming to sustain their tribes. The coastal Muslim population politically and militarily dominated the inland tribal population, however they both co-existed on the coast for oceanic trade benefits. Trading posts were set up and local produce was exchanged with sea travellers for various manufactured goods. Over 140 languages are still spoken in Kalimantan, while Sabah has 50+ and Sarawak has over 30, highlighting the cultural diversity of Borneo. This cultural and linguistic diversity of the Indigenous population goes hand in hand with the vast biodiversity within Borneo.
Historically, Indigenous peoples in Borneo have sustainably managed the island’s dominant ecosystems through agriculture and forest management practices. Out of the two main Indigenous groups, Dayaks particularly relied heavily on agriculture. Land use types consisted primarily of natural forest, cultivated forest and rotating swidden, or cleared land. Slash and burn agriculture was applied to clear the land for cultivation, mainly for growing rice. Although slash and burn agriculture is seen as potentially harmful to the ecosystem, this agricultural practice has been demonstrated as sustainable based on it’s application by these Indigenous communities for hundreds of years. Ecosystems that incorporated agriculture were referred to as “agro-ecosystems” and were developed to be well-suited to the tropical Borneo climate. These ecological management ideas were based in traditional knowledge which largely entails the union of the Dayak and the natural environment. Over 95% of Borneo consisted of forest ecosystem up until the middle of the nineteenth century which suggests the effectiveness and inherent sustainability that characterizes Dayak management practices.
Discuss the exposure to and observed or future impacts of threats to biodiversity in the context of your country. Which threats are most important and why? (Due Nov 18)
Borneo has been shaped by multiple anthropogenic processes including deforestation, land use conversion, climate change, wildlife hunting and trade, and mining. These influences are relatively recent in shaping Borneo’s ecosystems but have had substantial effects on their structure and function.
The biggest human influence is deforestation, which has adversely affected the ecosystems in Borneo. Deforestation started to occur with the acceleration of industrialization due to the rapid need for excessive amounts of timber for production. Logging greatly expanded in the 1980s and became some of the most extensive deforestation in the world, as 60-240 cubic metres of wood was being harvested per hectare in Borneo. This lasted until the 2000s when logging began to decrease and conservation initiatives began to arise. However, loss of forest cover in Borneo has been occurring at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the world’s humid tropical forest, which can be seen by a 37.1% decrease in cover between 1980 and 2015. Lowland forest and mangroves in Borneo have suffered the most from deforestation, due to agricultural and plantation expansion. Deforestation has had a long lasting influence on the environment, thus shaping the ecology of the Borneo ecosystem. Deforestation influences the events of El Niño, which is the warm phase of the El Niño- Southern Oscillation. The greater the forest clearance that occurs, the more drastic the changes in rainfall, temperature and relative humidity are. When vast deforestation is present, there is a reduction of rainfall by 4.2% and a mean temperature increase by 0.35 °C. These can greatly impact as ecosystem. They can also lead to habitat loss through large-scale erosion, flooding and fire risk. Drier conditions and less rainfall promotes the events of large-scale erosion, which impacts the ecosystem size for species to interact. When rainfall does come, flooding will prevail due to the high water table from the El Niño drought events. Less rainfall, higher temperatures and higher relative humidity all promote the likelihood of fire presence throughout Borneo. Deforestation additionally affects river ecosystems by exposing soil and subsequently increasing the potential for erosion to occur in upstream channels which alters the water quality for downstream communities.
- Land Use Conversion
Land conversion plays a more recent role in human intervention influencing the ecology of Borneo’s ecosystem. Deforestation for land use conversion didn’t significantly start until the 1980s, when deforestation greatly increased. The main goal of land use change is creating more space that is beneficial for humans. Only since 2005 has rapid land conversion of forest in Borneo into industrial plantations occurred.  The main plantations found in Borneo are oil-palm, rubber and pulp-wood. Oil palm plantations are the most widespread across Borneo, converting over 1.5 million hectares of land just in the state of Sabah alone. These plantations are responsible for manufacturing 85% of the world’s palm oil. Elaeis Guineenis trees are mass planted to produce oil-palm fruit, which produces the oil seeds needed for the creation of varies palm oils. However, palm oil plantations in Borneo are the biggest drivers of deforestation impacting ecosystems, biodiversity and habitats. While rubber and pulp-wood plantations are successful in Borneo, they don’t take up nearly the same space and contribute to deforestation as oil plantations. Agriculture also contributes to land conversion in Borneo due to the increased need for food to sustain the growing population. Human development makes up the smallest part of land conversion but still greatly contributes to the consequences on the ecosystem. All these land conversion types cause deforestation of rainforest, which prompts forest fragmentation. This fragmentation brings habitat loss and eventual decline in species richness. The less habitat available for the biodiversity, the greater the amount of species that are in danger of extinction. Borneo, which used to be described as pristine and lush, now has a vast decline in biodiversity due to human interference.
- Climate Change
Borneo’s widespread deforestation and land use conversion has accelerated climate change in the area. Climate change will have disastrous impacts on the island’s ecosystems. Borneo is predicted to see an increase in wildfires, flooding, and sea level rise, which will result in hundreds of millions of economic damages. The decrease in forest cover on the island has left it especially susceptible to flooding, and most palm oil plantations and mining concessions are in areas where severe flooding has occurred. If warming increases past two degrees Borneo’s incredibly diverse terrestrial and marine species could be devastated. McAlpine et al.'s 2018 study concluded that loss of forest in Borneo has increased daily temperatures, reduced daily rainfall, and increased temperature extremes. Watersheds that lost 40-75% of their forests saw greater climate change than areas that lost 5-25% of their forest cover.
- Wildlife Hunting and Trade
Humans have radically shaped the ecology of ecosystems in Borneo through wildlife hunting and trade. "Dewildication" is the intentional eradication of animals from ecosystems. Some have argued that hunting is a greater threat to wildlife than logging in Borneo, which is now home to many endangered species. According to TRAFFIC, hunting has continually reduced wildlife populations and in comparison, the impacts of logging are short-term. Wildlife hunting is worth huge amounts of money, and it doesn’t just occur on a local scale. International organizations illegally traffic animals from Borneo across the globe, and the industry is estimated to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Sport hunting is rapidly becoming the largest driver of dewildication today. Hunting without reason is common on Borneo and an increased number of hunters are targeting different species and selling the excess meat. Cheok and Mohd-Azlan's 2020 article cites inadequate awareness of the consequences of unsustainable hunting alongside challenges in monitoring hunting practices as the greatest barriers to wildlife conservation in Borneo. A couple notable at-risk species are Pangolins, Arowanas, and Orangutans. Pangolins are the most globally trafficked mammal across the globe. They are sought across Asia due to their health benefits and Borneo’s Sunda Pangolin is now endangered. Borneo’s peat swamps are also home to the Arowana fish. This fish is desired across the globe for aquariums, it is thought to bring good luck and prosperity and has been sold for up to $200,000. It is now extremely rare to catch one in the wild in Borneo as they are almost extinct. Finally, there is Orangutans. Young orangutans are in demand as pets, and every year up to 500 orangutans on Borneo are captured for the pet trade. This is especially worrying as orangutans have a very low reproductive rate. 
Historically, mining in Borneo started in the eighteenth century; since it wasn't practiced on a large scale, the environmental impact of mining was not significant. However with the introduction of colonial control, large scale commercial mining, organized by the Dutch, grew substantially. Since then, mining in Borneo has increased due to the governments of Borneo (Malaysian and Indonesian side) committing to pursue further expansion of commercial mining, especially coal production. This expansion is motivated by the economic development that mining has provided. Despite the economic profit, there is awareness of the massive environmental consequence of mining. Due to social pressure, governments and organizations are changing their environmental and social practices, although it is debated if this is taking place with any substantial change. Alongside corporate and government mining there are also, small illegal operators which are common, hard to track, have no direct social scrutiny, and practice even more harsh environmental mining. Coal mines (illegal and legal) take up large areas of historically diverse land, and make homogenous, bleak mining centres. This fragments or completely takes away an ecosystem, leading to a loss of biodiversity. Additionally, these areas usually create contaminated land and water in their surroundings, killing more biodiversity. These biodiversity losses go hand in hand with injustices faced by poor and Indigenous communities, who lose their farms, homes, and are often faced with poisoned waters and fields.
Overall, the most important threat to biodiversity in Borneo is deforestation. It has occurred on a much longer timescale than hunting, mining, and land use change, and it has had more widespread impacts. This is not universally agreed upon, with some arguing that wildlife hunting now outweighs the impacts of deforestation. However, consideration of hunting generally emphasises local species extinctions. The impacts of deforestation are on a more global scale when climate change is taken into account. Deforestation greatly effects Borneo’s climate, with consequences including increased habitat loss, erosion, and flood risk.  It is worth noting impacts on climate are not localised, and the effects of deforestation in one area are felt across the world.
Each student should identify one conservation project in the region and analyze it within the context of course discussions – what is the rationale? What are the strategies being employed? Evaluate the program’s success to date in terms of conservation as well as social outcomes. (Due Dec 2)
There are many current conservation efforts underway throughout the island of Borneo. Initiatives can range from reforestation, habitat protection, to fire fighting and prevention, and species protection and breeding.
- Habitat Protection by Borneo Nature Foundation:
One Conservation Project is Habitat Protection, done, by the Borneo Nature Foundation. The goal for the BNF is to protect, maintain and enhance the rainforests of Borneo, the present biodiversity and the benefits provided for people. This initiative was founded because Borneo is the home of many critically endangered species that are soon to become extinct if conservation groups don't intervene and help. Also, the rainforest provides many ecosystem services to the local communities. This includes fuel, air filtration, controlling flooding and erosion, and filtering water supplies. If conservation efforts aren't successful adverse affects for the local ecosystem, people and planet Earth will follow. Habitat protection will save wildlife, reduce deforestation and prevent forest loss with community cultural and economic importance. Borneo Nature Foundation is protecting habitat by using field research, satellite imagery and socio-economic surveys to find High Conservation Value (HCV) areas in unprotected forests. These areas could hold high biodiversity, high carbon stocks, or beneficial natural resource function for communities. Irregardless, the identification and conservation of these areas is vital in order to save the numerous endemic species located within Borneos tropical rainforests. This conservation initiative has been very successful as over 360,000 hectares of tropical rainforest is now located within the foundations work area and is being maintained and protected. This preserved rainforest plot is home to 9000+ Borean orangutans, which are protected from illegal hunting. Borneo Nature Foundation has also helped get 61 animal species legally protected in Indonesia, which is a great feat to allow these endangered species the ability to repopulate and grow. This initiative has also created some pretty successful social outcomes. BNF engages with all stakeholders, ie. indigenous communities or government, to ensure sustainable land management. While doing the surveys throughout communities, workers are able to educate the local communities about the causes and impacts of deforestation and learn about indigenous community land practices to prioritize that their land management uses are identified and supported.
- Volunteer Tourism by The Great Projects:
Rather than being a specific project, ‘The Great Projects’ assists with a range of conservation projects across the globe, including efforts in Borneo. The Great Projects (TGP) is an English organisation that offers people the chance to volunteer abroad, with the goal of animal conservation. It began with the Great Orangutan Project in Borneo but has since expanded to over 35 projects, with thousands of volunteers partaking annually. Their rationale is one of ‘sustainable travel’; people get unforgettable holidays whilst aiding conservation. For volunteers to assist with the Great Orangutan project in Borneo, they must pay £675 (as of November 2022) to spend a week at the Matang Wildlife Centre. A key question is whether the money paid by volunteers goes directly to wildlife conservation. In this case, only £350 of the project fee is donated to the project itself, but that donation is guaranteed. Whilst there, volunteers partake in activities including feeding the orangutans, providing them enrichment, and maintenance of the centre. Volunteer tourism has varying levels of success. There are many benefits; wildlife centres in Borneo offer a home to orangutans that are critically endangered, and the holidays boost local economies by bringing money and jobs to the area. Volunteer tourism also greatly increases awareness on the need for conservation, both locally and globally. Without it, many conservation projects may not be able to happen, and volunteers are given access to remote projects they wouldn’t otherwise. TGP go to great lengths to ensure customers the authenticity of their organisation, highlighting the exploitative nature of some volunteer tourism. This includes a commitment to a ‘Responsible travel policy,’ that includes pledges such as guaranteeing a project meets the needs of host communities. However, there are many drawbacks to TGP and volunteer tourism overall. The volunteers are primarily from the Global North, whilst the conservation projects are mostly in the Global South. This has resulted in the control of resources being largely held by western people, who start up and manage these projects. Local indigenous knowledge is not adequately incorporated. Furthermore, the conservation is driven by people’s valuation, with the animals and destinations that are seen as most desirable being where conservation efforts are concentrated, and not necessarily where volunteer input is needed the most. Volunteer tourism clusters around a relatively small number of countries and mammals that are seen as charismatic, like orangutans. There are many other endangered species in Borneo that are not given as much attention. In summary, volunteer tourism and organisations like The Great Projects attempt to reconcile scientific conservation with the need to provide enticing holidays. This inevitably leads to trade-offs between the two, and there is a range of organisations each with varying priorities between profit and conservation. TGP is likely having a positive impact in Borneo, even though there may be better conservation strategies out there.
- Project Borneo
Project Borneo is a conversation organization in Sarawak working to protect the endangered species of Malaysian Borneo, offering both wildlife tours and a volunteer program. Project Borneo also helps to support the Matang Wildlife Centre which focuses on caring for and releasing at-risk orangutans and other wildlife. The volunteer program takes volunteers either for two weeks or a month and tasks them with constructing the animal sanctuary buildings, maintenance, and farming. The eco-tours take place in the national parks of Sarawak and the Matang Wildlife Centre, informing visitors of the biodiversity of Borneo and offering interaction with the Indigenous communities. This conservation project was created to conserve orangutans and other endangered species in Borneo using strictly defined wildlife centers. It also relies on eco-tourism and intensive volunteer programs to achieve their wildlife conservation goals. Project Borneo has been operating since 2006 with both tourism and the volunteer program growing in size since implementation. Orangutan populations, however, have been continually declining due to rising deforestation rates and subsequent palm oil plantations. Although Project Borneo is providing a stable environment for endangered wildlife, its conservation strategies are failing to conserve species at an adequate rate. This conservation effort is therefore not sufficiently protecting Borneo wildlife even though their programs have become increasingly popular each year.
- Fairventures Worldwide Reforestation
Fairventures worldwide is a German non-profit organization with several conservation projects across the globe. One of their projects since 2016 has been tree conservation in Borneo. Faiventures works with volunteers, the Indonesian government, local groups, and farmers to "empower local livelihoods by providing opportunities for long-term, sustainable income"using a holistic agroforestry approach. They also use the Sustainable Development Goals from the UN to guide their work . Most reforestation efforts are not very helpful and they are usually neglected projects which are forgotten after they are carelessly planted. However, this project tracks and presents the data from their re-planted forests which are diverse in species and enrich the economies of the local communities. They plant native species such as Lightwood Trees (Sengon, Acacia, Red Jabon, White Jabon) and various Fruit Trees (Banana, Mango, Papaya, etc) . Based on their reports, so far they have distributed 1,466,766 tree seedlings, supported 1,492 smallholder farmers, and planted 910 hectares of reforested area . The number of smallholder farmers is the most surprising part to me, as it seems they are truly making an effort to benefit and involve the local community. Their approach is a very socio-economic one which seems to be actually taking place. Aside from farming and planting the organization also attempts to create renewable markets for the forests which are not harsh and deforestation oriented. They link farmers with the wood processing industry to provide a sustainable source of income to them. They also experiment with the usage of wood, for example they are attempting to introduce them in the construction sector of Borneo to replace emission-intensive materials such as concrete.
Please use the Wikipedia reference style. Provide a citation for every sentence, statement, thought, or bit of data not your own, giving the author, year, AND page. For dictionary references for English-language terms, I strongly recommend you use the Oxford English Dictionary. You can reference foreign-language sources but please also provide translations into English in the reference list.
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