Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Future Prospects for the Ecosystem

Based on the current rates of deforestation and biodiversity loss, the future for the Southeast Asian rainforest ecosystem appears bleak. The ecosystem (and its inherent biodiversity) faces a wide variety of threats from socioeconomic factors that include exponential population growth, poverty, unscrupulous political institutions, and a constant deficit of conservation resources. As the local southeast asian communities aim to keep up with the living standards of developed nations around the world, environmental issues are inevitably trivialized. As a result, the surrounding rainforests suffer immensely at the expense of increasing human population density. This exponential population growth is the main socioeconomic factor that contributes to widespread deforestation and forest loss in Southeast Asia. Furthermore, in comparison to other tropical regions, research on Southeast Asian biodiversity has been severely neglected. In the research that has been conducted, a disproportionate amount of attention has been given to the study of Southeast Asian mammals and there remains a lack of research on critical vascular plant, invertebrate, and fish species. In order to remedy to biodiversity loss that this ecosystem is experiencing it is important to devote research efforts equally amongst the biota of the Southeast Asian rainforest. (Effects of Rainforest Loss 1998)

The shortage of biodiversity studies and research (pertaining to this ecosystem) is detrimental to future conservation efforts. In order conserve the diverse habitats of the rainforests of Southeast Asia it is important to have the biological knowledge necessary to protect and conserve these areas. Unforunately, because this knowledge is lacking (due to the lack of biodiversity research) it is incredibly difficult to prioritize conservation efforts (with respect to the areas that need it most) and model sustainable usage of timber and bushmeat. Studies conducted recently demonstrate the degradation that even "protected" areas are forced to confront. According to a journal article published by the Department of Biological Sciences, at the National University of Singapore (regarding the loss of biodiversity in Southeast Asia):
"Currently, there are 2262 protected areas in the region, which cover a total land area of 58 million ha (13.4%). More than half of the total cover of these areas is in Indonesia (24 million ha) and Malaysia (10 million ha). Recent studies show that, in spite of their ‘protected’ status, some of these areas have become increasingly isolated and deforested...Protected areas also vary considerably in their degree of effectiveness...the effectiveness of such areas for biodiversity conservation was correlated most strongly with the density of [protection]. Therefore, the enforcement and management of parks is crucial to the success of protected areas in conserving the native habitats and biodiversity of Southeast Asia." Source(s): Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore, Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, Key Centre for Tropical Wildlife Management. (Trends in Ecology 2004)
If anthropogenic activity continues to have a massive and relentless impact on the rainforests of Southeast Asia, than the biodiversity and subsequently the very existence of this ecosystem will degrade to the point of no return. The future of the Southeast Asian rainforests depends immensely on the actions humans take to either conserve, restore and protect this ecosystem or destroy and annihilate it entirely.
 Figure 1: Deforestation in Southeast Asia
Source: http://www.trfic.msu.edu/rfrc/status.html
 Figure 2: Deforestation in Sumatra
Source: http://www.cepf.net
 Figure 3: Biodiversity Southeast Asia
Source: http://www.searrp.org

 Figure 4: Encroaching Urbanization in Indonesia
Source: Vital Forest Graphics


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