Borneo and Indochina have been identified as major evolutionary hotspots by an international research team, which includes the University of New England.
UNE’s Professor Ian Metcalfe says these areas are also facing the highest deforestation rates on the planet.
“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.”
Professor Ian Metcalfe is part of a large international research team undertaking the study that is led by Dr Mark de Bruyn of Bangor University, U.K.
“We looked at geological, climatic and biological data to identify geographic areas that have been important in the evolutionary history of the exceptionally diverse fauna and flora of Southeast Asia. Borneo, in particular, is highlighted in this study.”
The results show that more needs to be done to conserve Borneo’s flora and fauna.
“It currently houses the highest levels of Southeast Asian plant and mammal species richness and its conservation is critically required,” said Professor Metcalfe.
High priority conservation areas in Borneo under the current “Heart of Borneo” agreement between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei fail to adequately protect areas of lowland rainforest.
“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.”
The 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.