Credit by Leuser © Junaidi Hanafiah | mongabay.co.id
"If the Amazon Rainforests are the Lungs of the Earth, this Place is its heart"
NATURE Indonesia

"If the Amazon Rainforests are the Lungs of the Earth, this Place is its heart"

There are some places in the world that are just so important, so vital to the survival of wildlife and so important to surrounding people and their livelihoods, that even if we doubt we will ever visit them in person, we know they must be cherished.

The Leuser (pronounced low-sir) ecosystem is a vast tropical landscape on the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Spanning more than 6.5 million acres of lowland jungle, montane rainforests and teeming, carbon-rich peat swamps, Leuser's forests are among the most ancient on Earth. This is a realm where volcanic eruptions, fluctuating sea levels, and species migrations over uninterrupted millennia have enabled one of the most biodiverse landscapes ever documented.

The core forest of Leuser | Junaidi Hanafiah
The core forest of Leuser | Junaidi Hanafiah

It is among the most biodiverse and ancient ecosystems ever documented by science, and it is the last place where Sumatran orangutans, elephants, tigers, rhinos and sun bears still roam side by side.

In an article for US News & World Report, Dr Ian Singleton painted a picture of the Indonesian area’s extraordinary natural beauty and its importance on a global scale.

Leuser | Junaidi Hanafiah
Leuser | Junaidi Hanafiah

“If the Amazon rainforests are the lungs of the Earth, the Leuser is its heart – beating with vitality for us all,” he wrote.

“From its pristine tropical beaches to its rugged high mountaintops, the Leuser ecosystem pulses with life,” Dr Singleton wrote.

“It is the last place on Earth where Southeast Asia's most iconic species – orangutans, tigers, rhinos and elephants – still live side by side in the wild. 

“To step into Leuser's steamy rainforests is to experience a serenade of biodiversity, a cacophony of buzzing insects, singing birds, croaking frogs, and loud-calling primates.”

Protected, but need support | Junaidi Hanafiah
Protected, but need support | Junaidi Hanafiah

Leuser, he said, was home to some 382 bird species, at least 105 different mammals and 95 reptiles and amphibians. It helped provide clean water for millions of people and acted as a massive store of carbon.

The Leuser contains some of the world's highest known levels of plant and animal abundance, with at least 105 mammal species, 382 bird species, and 95 reptile and amphibian species, with countless others no doubt still unrecorded. The rainfall Leuser's forests produce, and the numerous clear rivers that emanate within them, provide millions of local people with clean drinking water and irrigation for agriculture, including water-intensive rice cultivation, as well as many other needs essential to local economies.

Orangutan in Leuser | aperlust.com
Orangutan in Leuser | aperlust.com

Even if you've never heard of Leuser and couldn't locate it on a map, the Leuser is providing you with a critical service. As probably the largest intact, contiguous forest remaining in Southeast Asia, and containing three of the planet's most indispensable carbon-rich deep peat swamp forests, the Leuser stores immense quantities of carbon in its forests and peatlands, mitigating global climate change by keeping pollution out of the atmosphere.

Elephants in Leuser | Funsumatra
Elephants in Leuser | Funsumatra

But the Leuser Ecosystem exists at a tenuous crossroads. Despite being protected under Indonesian national law, massive industrial development for palm oil, pulp and paper plantations and mining threaten the entire ecosystem, as well as the continued wellbeing of the millions of Acehnese people who depend on it for their food, water and livelihoods.

The future of all Leuser's wildlife species, the water supplies and numerous other environmental services it provides to the millions of people living around it, even the climate itself, wherever you may live, all depend on us protecting the Leuser ecosystem today. To achieve that, we need the Leuser ecosystem to be "slap bang on the middle of the map" for all the world to get to know it, to appreciate and cherish its importance to them, and ultimately to fall in love with it.

Sumatran Rhino | mongabay.com
Sumatran Rhino | mongabay.com

The "Love the Leuser ecosystem" movement is a global effort to raise the profile of this amazing, unique, and totally irreplaceable place in the imagination of everyone, everywhere – to make it a global household name.

This has worked in the past. It has certainly helped slow destruction of the Amazon, for example, and we need it to work for the little-known Leuser ecosystem now.

Source : Independent.co.uk | USNEWS.com | RAN.org | Mongabay.com 

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