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Increase understanding of wildfires in Borneo and conserve crucial habitats

Indonesia’s extensive tropical peatlands are unique and important ecosystems, storing vast amounts of carbon and supporting highly diverse rainforests that are home to critically endangered orang-utans and numerous species found nowhere else on earth.

Published 1st July 2021

Conversion of these forests to agricultural land has had a major impact on these fragile ecosystems and has made the peat soils prone to wildfires during drought periods. These fires are now a near annual event and in bad years they can burn for months. Among the consequences are vast carbon emissions (several times those of the whole UK economy), a toxic smoke haze that affects the health of millions of people, major economic damage and the continuing loss of huge areas of the remaining rainforest as the fires spill over.

Combined efforts by the Indonesian government and NGOs seek to resolve this issue by rewetting the peat soils and re-planting forest whilst developing sustainable livelihoods for the many people that farm these lands. This is a monumental task with many challenges.

Our project aims to support these efforts by building the evidence base required for effective action. We do this with a wide-ranging interdisciplinary research programme, involving social scientists, biologists, geographers and climate scientists working in close collaboration in the UK and Indonesia.

Until recently, our project was well-funded through the UKRI’s Global Challenges Research Fund, but severe cuts to foreign aid by the UK government has had a big impact on our immediate budget and has left much uncertainty about our funding in coming years.

How your donations can help

  • £50 could fund a soil fertility detector to monitor the health of aquaculture ponds
  • £250 could fund a microscope to study the external features of small fish
  • £650 could fund a portable air pollution sensor to record the effect of the toxic haze on a single household; £5,000 could fund portable air pollution sensors for 20 households across a variety of socio-economic backgrounds enabling us to investigate the inequalities associated with access to clean air during haze episodes
  • £1,000 could fund educational materials to teach Indonesian schoolchildren about the importance of peatlands
  • £2,500 could fund expeditions to collect peat samples to assess variations in flammability
  • £5,000 could fund a laboratory refrigerator to store samples and chemicals at the correct temperature
  • £9,000 could fund a fixed-wing drone for landscape mapping
  • £10,000 could fund a high-spec thermal camera to assess the biophysical condition of the peat and map the most fire-prone areas
  • £15,000 could fund specialist equipment for long-term monitoring of river water chemistry, depth and flow
  • £20,000 could fund specialist equipment for the Centre for Aquaculture Research at the University of Palangka Raya
  • £50,000 could fund construction and equipment for a fish hatchery and associated mini-laboratory for the Centre for Aquaculture Research at the University of Palangka Raya
  • £85,000 could fund a 2 year Indonesian Masters by Research student at the University of Exeter
  • £180,000 could fund a 4 year Indonesian PhD student at the University of Exeter

Images: Borneo Nature Foundation

Destroyed forest in Sebangau
The forest is home to critically endangered orang-utans

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