|Borneo native Eonycteris major, credit: Matthew Struebig|
Responses of biodiversity to changes in both land cover and climate are recognized but still poorly understood. This poses significant challenges for spatial planning as species could shift, contract, expand, or maintain their range inside or outside protected areas. We examine this problem in Borneo, a global biodiversity hotspot, using spatial prioritization analyses that maximize species conservation under multiple environmental-change forecasts.
Borneo is the third-largest island in the world and the largest island in Asia. It is a world renowned hotspot of biodiversity, and there is no question that the island's many rare species are in big trouble.
Now researchers of the Borneo Mammal Distribution Consortium claim that with targeted conservation measures there is hope for the mammalian species on the island.
Based on climate projections alone, up to one in every three Bornean mammal species is expected to lose 30% or more of their habitat by the year 2080. With additional losses as rainforests are cut, nearly half of Borneo's mammals could see suitable habitats shrink by a third or more in the coming decades. The colleagues show that deforestation and climate change are both expected to hit lowland forests of Borneo the hardest. While lowland forests and especially peatlands will remain important for endangered species such as the otter civet (Cynogale bennettii) and flat-headed cat (Prionailurus planiceps), higher-elevation reserves deserve special attention as they might help to mitigate the threat of climate change.
With the evidence base now in place, the researchers say they hope the findings will make an important difference to conservation efforts on the ground. The team, which includes conservation organizations and government institutions, is now presenting their portfolio to government representatives in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei through the Borneo Futures initiative.
As much as I welcome any good news related to biodiversity conservation, I am a bit concerned that this study focused only on mammals. All conclusions that are now presented to authorities are based on this limited view of biodiversity. All remaining vertebrates (and there are lot in Borneo) and invertebrates as the most diverse group of all are not considered. Can higher-elevation reserves also help mitigating the threat to those groups? The study seems to be a good start and a great proof of concept. However, the proposed methods should also be used by colleagues that work with the actual majority of life on Borneo.