Professor Ian Metcalfe (Earth Sciences, School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England) is part of a large multi-disciplinary international research team led by Dr. Mark de Bruyn of Bangor University, U.K. undertaking a study that brings together a large amount of geological, climatic and biological data to identify geographic areas that have been particularly important in the evolutionary history of the exceptionally diverse fauna and flora of Southeast Asia. Borneo, in particular, is highlighted in this study.
Project results have recently been published in a paper entitled "Borneo and Indochina are Major Evolutionary Hotspots for Southeast Asian Biodiversity " in the journal Systematic Biology Volume 63, Issue 6, pp.879-901 (2014).
In this paper, the research team examined the assembly of Southeast Asian biota in both space and time by conducting meta-analysis on geological, climatic and biological data sets. Borneo (in particular) and Indochina are identified as important major "evolutionary hotspots" for a diverse range of fauna and flora.
Deforestation that is occurring in lowland rainforest areas of Borneo, largely due to the expansion of oil palm plantations, places the biodiversity there under extreme threat of extinction.
de Bruyn and colleagues concluded that “Accelerated efforts to conserve Borneo's flora and fauna in particular, currently housing the highest levels of Southeast Asian plant and mammal species richness, are critically required.”
“High priority conservation areas in Borneo envisaged under the current ‘Heart of Borneo’ agreement between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei fail to adequately protect extensive areas of lowland rainforest, which harbour the highest levels of diversity. Losing further large areas of forested land to development in this region will result in the irreplaceable loss of the primary refuge area for the entire Sunda Shelf region.”
Professor Ian Metcalfe, University of New England
Dr Mark de Bruyn, Bangor University