A new scientific organization—ALERT, the Alliance of Leading Environmental Scientists and Thinkers—has urged Indonesian officials to support World Heritage listing for a critically endangered ecosystem on the island of Sumatra.
In recent years, Sumatra’s forests have been rapidly felled for industrial plantations and slash-and-burn farming. Now the last major tract of lowland forest in Sumatra—the Leuser Ecosystem—is being imperiled as well.
“This is one of the most important conservation issues in the world today,” said William Laurance, a professor at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia and director of ALERT.
“The Leuser region is a crucial refuge for many important wildlife species,” said Laurance. “It’s literally the last place on Earth where elephants, tigers, rhinoceros, and orangutans still coexist.”
Scientists from ALERT highlighted the broader environmental values of the Leuser region, especially its rare lowland forests. “These forests are essential for food security, regulating water flows throughout the year to irrigate rice fields and other cash crops,” said Laurance. “The loss of these forests could also disrupt rivers and fisheries, seriously harming the livelihoods of local residents.”
The Aceh government in northern Sumatra has proposed to construct hundreds of kilometers of new roads and clear tens of thousands of hectares of forest in the Leuser region. ALERT members said World Heritage listing is the best way to ensure the Leuser region is adequately protected.
ALERT is a coalition of world-leading scientists committed to providing authoritative public commentary on environmental issues.
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