Jayanty Nada Shofa, Jakarta – Entering its sixth year, the largest restoration and conservation program on peatlands in Sumatra, the Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER), has again recorded progress in efforts to conserve habitats for protected flora and fauna.
Initiated by APRIL Group in 2013, RER is committed to protecting, restoring and conserving ecosystems on peatlands as well as maintaining carbon stocks and conserving biodiversity in concessions covering 150,693 hectares in Riau province, equivalent to the area of London.
According to its 2019 Progress Report, RER achieved three important things, namely an increase in the inventory of flora and fauna, success in protecting forest restoration from fires for six consecutive years as well as several biodiversity research initiatives.
Increase of flora and fauna inventory
As of 2019, RER has identified additional 38 spesies of flora and fauna to a total of 797 species found in the Kampar Peninsula and Padang Island. The details include as many as 76 species of mammals, 307 species of birds, 107 species of amphibians and reptiles, 190 species of trees, 89 species of fish and 28 species of insects (Odonata).
From those figures, 57 species are included on the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red Lists as vulnerable (36), endangered (13) and critically endangered (8). There are also 114 species that are included in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) list and 106 species listed by the Government of Indonesia as protected.
Zero fire for six consecutive years
Over the past six years, there have also been zero forest and land fires in the RER area due to a strong commitment in forest restoration, hydrological restoration and direct community involvement.
"Overall, our efforts in maintaining and restoring the ecological function of the region have shown tremendous result. By 2019, the 81,200 meters of old drainage canals within the RER area have been closed as part of a continuous effort to close all of them by 2025," said Nyoman Iswarayoga, External Affairs Director of RER (6/18/2020).
Canal closure plays an important role in RER's hydrological restoration efforts to reduce fire hazards and minimize carbon emissions. In the past year, RER successfully restored 112.6 hectares of peat swamp forest through planting natural saplings and assisted natural regeneration (ANR).
Another factor in the success of the RER in keeping its area free from hotspots and fires is its continous partnership with communities living around the restoration area. Throughout 2019, RER facilitated six community groups to implement no-burn agricultural and freshwater fish farming which provided additional income for the community.
In 2019, RER also began an insect survey for Odonata which included dragonflies and damselflies. In addition, RER also conducted a pilot study to investigate how mammal species respond to the interface or edge between acacia plantation and peat swamp forests. The RER team also initiated a project with SINTAS Foundation (Save the Indonesian Nature and Threatened Species) to conduct the first survey of the presence of tigers in the Kampar Peninsula to support the Sumatran Tiger Survey, and the Indonesian National Tiger Recovery Program Recovery Program.
These biodiversity research initiatives are RER's efforts in restoring forests in the region. More comprehensive knowledge about the types of species in the RER area will greatly assist in determining the strategy and success of ecosystem restoration.
"For example, 28 species of Odonata found in the initial five days of the survey on the Kampar Peninsula show that our peat ecosystem is in good condition, because Odonata is known as an indicator for freshwater ecosystems health," Nyoman said.
Supporting Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Sihol Aritonang, Director of PT Riau Andalan Pulp and Paper (RAPP), the operating arm of APRIL Group, said the achievement recorded by RER could not be separated from the methods established by APRIL, namely the production-protection model, especially in the Kampar Peninsula region.
Furthermore, RER is also a concrete manifestation of the company's commitment to encourage the implementation of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically goal 15: Life on Land.
"In addition, RER is part of the realization of APRIL's Sustainable Forest Management Policy (SFMP) 2.0. APRIL has made a 1-for-1 commitment, where we conserve or restore one hectare of natural forest for every hectare of industrial plantations managed, "explained Sihol.
At the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 21) in Paris, APRIL committed US $100 million for 10 years to support APRIL's ecosystem restoration and conservation projects.
To note, RER's restoration and conservation efforts are inseparable from the government's support, especially the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, which has granted a Business License for the Utilization of Timber Forest Products-Ecosystem Restoration (IUPHHK-RE) to be managed by RER in 2013. This management permit is valid for 60 years.
Commitment to restoration amid Covid-19 pandemic
Amid Covid-19 pandemic, RER reiterated its commitment to continue running the ecosystem restoration program in accordance with the work plan set for this year.
"The commitment to conserve habitats for protected flora and fauna remains our priority. In the implementation, we take into account health protocols as recommended by the government to ensure safety of the RER team and the people living around the RER," Nyoman said.