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Jakarta Post

LIPI launches expedition to Wallacea in search of undiscovered species


    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Sat, April 9, 2016   /  03:38 pm
LIPI launches expedition to Wallacea in search of undiscovered species A Mamole Tree House villa seen from the connecting bamboo bridge. Elevated on wooden stilts between ancient trees, the three-bedroom tree-house complex is in the Sumbanese style, adorned with local carvings, antiques and ikat prints. (Courtesy of Nihiwatu Resorts /-)

The Indonesian Science Institute (LIPI) plans to launch a three-week expedition to Sumba in East Nusa Tenggara and West Sulawesi on April 15 to explore hidden biodiversity, including endemic flora, fauna and micro-organisms.

The end of the expedition is expected to pave the way for further development and local welfare.

The Widya Nusantara Expedition will involve two teams consisting of 70 researchers, with a budget of Rp 2.1 billion (US$ 159,756).

“The expedition aims to show the vast biodiversity that can be used by local communities and regional governments,” LIPI chairman Iskandar Zulkarnain said on Friday, referring to the burgeoning global bio-resources industry.

Senior LIPI  researcher Anas Saidi said the expedition would benefit both science and society.

Sumba and West Sulawesi are both located within Wallacea, a biogeographical transition zone from Asia to Australia in central Indonesia, which is believed to have immense biodiversity. According to the  institute, many endemic species remain unrecorded, including fungi, microbes and, on Sumba, freshwater micro-flora and micro-fauna.

LIPI life sciences researcher Witjaksono said that West Sulawesi had a high level of endemism as a result of its geological history, Sulawesi having been formed by at least five paleo-islands.

“Besides, West Sulawesi is a relatively new province [having been formed in 2004]. So we need to explore more data about its biodiversity,” he said.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (Kehati) program manager Basuki Rahmad said that further exploration was needed in Sumba and West Sulawesi, as the areas were home to several endemic species vulnerable to the illegal wildlife trade.

“There are lots of rare species of birds in those regions regarded as ‘sexy’ commodities for the illegal wildlife trade,” Basuki said. “As such, the expedition is needed to check the real situation on the ground.”

LIPI is also to send a separate expedition to Sumba from July 26 to Aug. 15. The assigned team will include 30 terrestrial researchers looking to explore  oceanography, seismogenic zones and ecological connectivity around the island. (vps/bbn)

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