Research Press Release

Ecology: Cross-border cooperation would give Borneo a bright future

Nature Communications

April 15, 2015

The island of Borneo can successfully meet conservation targets for protecting orangutan and elephant habitats if its three national jurisdictions work together, finds a study in Nature Communications. This integrated planning approach would allow the island to retain around half of its land as forest and save at least US$43 billion.

Borneo is the third largest island in the world, and harbours a large number of endemic and endangered species. Its total forested area has declined substantially since the 1970s due to agricultural expansion, in particular the production of palm oil. Division of the island into three national jurisdictions ? Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei ? each with their own development priorities also means that agreement on coordinated efforts may be difficult to achieve.

Rebecca Runting and colleagues quantify how much money could be saved if all three jurisdictions integrated their conservation and economic planning efforts to meet current targets. They find that, compared to a baseline scenario of business-as-usual, adopting a co-ordinated planning approach would allow all three jurisdictions to retain substantial amounts of habitat, meet their development goals and achieve substantial economic savings. Under such a cooperative scenario some land areas would need to swap their current designations from protected areas to agricultural land, and vice versa.

In addition, while the authors acknowledge that overcoming political boundaries remains a challenge for future progress, these results may be a useful model for other areas of the globe where high levels of biodiversity come into conflict with geopolitical borders.


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