Indonesia is the second most biologically diverse country in the world , . It is considered one of the 17 “megadiverse” countries, with 2 of the world’s 25 biodiversity “hotspots”, 18 of the World Wildlife Fund’s “Global 200” ecoregions and 24 of the Bird Life International’s “Endemic Bird Areas” . Indonesia has a large diversity of ecosystems , which includes tropical forests, coral reefs and mangrove ecosystems. The country is also home to the largest tropical peatland in the world with approximately 15 million hectares of peatland (both forested and non-forested) spread across Sumatra, Kalimantan, Sulawesi, and Papua .
According to Indonesia’s updated biodiversity profile in its Sixth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), Indonesia is home to around 31,750 plant species, 732 mammal species (14% of the total species in the world), 1,711 bird species (17% of the total species in the world), 750 reptile species (8% of the total species), 403 amphibian species (6% of the total species), and 1,236 freshwater fish species (9% of the total species) . In addition to being rich in species diversity, the level of endemism of Indonesian fauna is very high, this is mainly due to the country’s unique geology . Some endemic species include the Komodo dragon (Varanus komodoensis), orangutan (Pongo spp.), bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea ssp.), and the Javan rhinoceros (Rhinoceros sondaicus) . Further, Indonesia ranks as one of the world’s centers for agrobiodiversity of plant cultivars and domesticated livestock .
Indonesia’s biodiversity provides a wide range of important ecosystem services, which includes provisioning services (food, water, medicinal resources, biofuels, genetic resources etc.), regulating services (water, climate, air quality and erosion regulation etc.), cultural services (spiritual and religious values, education, recreation and ecotourism etc.) and supporting services (habitat provisioning, soil formulation, nutrient cycling etc.) , . The country’s rich biodiversity also has significant economic benefits . For instance, according to time series data (2010-2016) from BIOFIN INDONESIA, the country’s extractive sectors, a combination of agriculture, livestock, forestry, and fisheries, accounts for about 14% of Indonesia’s total GDP. In addition, the tourism sector, which heavily utilizes the country’s biodiversity and its services, accounts for about 3% of GDP .
Indonesia is home to an estimated 20% of the world’s mangroves, which is the largest mangrove ecosystem in the world, covering approximately 3.3 million hectares . Mangroves provide valuable ecosystem services that contribute to human wellbeing in Indonesia, including coastal protection, climate regulation, fisheries support services, raw materials provision and cultural services . According to recent research from the World Bank, Indonesia’s mangroves are worth approximately US$15,000 per hectare on average, with some locations – particularly those near developed coastal areas – worth about $50,000, due to their role in flood protection . Unfortunately, Indonesia’s mangrove forests continue to be degraded, posing a serious threat to the country’s economy and population . According to various studies compiled by the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MoMAF) up to 2018, mangroves in Indonesia experience the fastest rate of damage in the world. In the last three decades, up to 40% of mangroves in Indonesia have been lost. Deforestation of mangrove forests is estimated to account for around 6% of Indonesia’s total forest loss. Based on this, about 637,624 ha or 19.26% of mangrove areas in Indonesia are in critical condition .
Indonesia is also located in the heart of coral triangle region, an epicenter of marine biodiversity and the second largest fisheries producer in the world. The coral triangle region hosts around 605 coral species or about 70% of the world’s total coral species. The highest number of coral species are found in the Bird’s Head Seascape, Indonesia. The total coral species found in Indonesian waters is estimated at about 569 species across 2.5 million hectares of coral reef areas , and the economic value of Indonesia’s coral reefs per year has been estimated at USD 2 billion (in 2012) . Coral reefs provide key spawning grounds for many fish species, harbour significant biodiversity, and generate tourism income . However, as of 2017, more than 35% of Indonesia’s coral reefs are classified as in Poor condition . Further, climate change could cause Indonesia’s seawater to experience an increase in temperature of 0.2 °C to 2.5 °C, which has the potential to negatively impact 50,000 km² of coral reefs (including through coral bleaching) in Indonesia or about 18% of the total area in the world, which in turn will have an impact on the availability of fish resources and fishermen’s income .
Despite the importance of biodiversity for the country’s economy and population, Indonesia's biodiversity is being degraded  and the country’s important ecosystems continue to be threatened by land-use change and overexploitation. In 2019, 259 species in Indonesia were classified as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This included 135 plants and 124 animals, where 116 of the animal species were terrestrial and 9 were marine. Of the mammals included in the list, 23 of the 24 critically endangered mammals had very limited ranges and many had a small population that was decreasing. This included the Sumatran rhinoceros , which has only an estimated 30 mature individuals remaining , and the Tapanuli Orangutan, the most endangered great ape species in the world .
As Indonesia contains the second greatest biodiversity on Earth, addressing the challenges to Indonesia’s biodiversity is critical .
The main pressures on biodiversity in Indonesia are overexploitation, deforestation and habitat loss, pollution, invasive alien species and climate change . The underlying drivers of biodiversity loss include weak governance, inadequate capacity and insufficient resources, and a lack of incentives for biodiversity conservation and sustainable natural resources management .
Overexploitation and the unsustainable use of natural resources continue to be major threats to Indonesia’s marine and terrestrial biodiversity. Activities include overfishing (including unregulated and unreported fishing), unsustainable timber extraction, and the unsustainable harvesting of wildlife – often illegally – for pets, food, and medicine. Indonesia is one of the main suppliers of both legal and illegal wildlife products in Southeast Asia. Various species are traded from Indonesia, including fragrant timbers, reptiles, corals, birds, and primates, with reptiles and birds the most heavily harvested, respectively, for international and domestic markets .
Deforestation and habitat loss in the country is mainly driven by conversion to agriculture (primarily for oil palm), mining, and infrastructure. For example, as of 2017, nearly 6.8 million hectares had been released from the forest estate for the establishment of (mostly) oil palm plantations. This is a legal conversion of land use, changing the principle land use from forest to non-forest purposes, but illegal deforestation to establish plantations in Indonesia also occurs .
Climate change will result in loss of biodiversity in Indonesia. Climate change has the potential to affect almost all aspects of ecosystems such as physiological and behavioural responses, life cycles, competitiveness, community structure, productivity, and nutrient cycles. According to Indonesia’s Adaptation Communication published in October 2022, climate change could lead to a reduction of around 13 to 29% in the total potential fishery catch in Indonesian waters by 2050, depending on the emission scenario. By 2100, Indonesia could lose between 25-82% of its coral cover and most of the coral reef-based tourism could be lost. If viewed from the forest and biodiversity sector, one study reported a potential decline in bird populations of up to 60% by 2050 in Sulawesi. Another study, based in Kalimantan, projects that 11-36% of mammal species could lose more than 30% of suitable habitat by 2080 as a result of climate change, likely driving significant population declines .
Key policies and governance approach
The Government of Indonesia prepared its first Biodiversity Action Plan for Indonesia (BAPI) in 1993. In 2003, this action plan was renewed and became the Indonesian Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (IBSAP) 2003-2020 . The most recent IBSAP, the Indonesia Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan 2015-2020, was published in 2016. The IBSAP serves as a bridge between global and national biodiversity commitments and as a guide for setting national priorities and investments in biodiversity conservation . The IBSAP includes the following vision: “Indonesian biodiversity preservation and development that contributes to national competitiveness and a fair and sustainable use of resources to improve the welfare of current and future generations”. To support the realization of this vision, the following three missions were formulated, with supporting policies and strategies: (1) to improve Indonesia’s biodiversity ownership; (2) to treat biodiversity as a source of sustainable welfare and livelihood for Indonesians; and (3) fully responsible biodiversity management for the sustainability of all creatures in the world .
Important biodiversity-related legislation in Indonesia includes the Conservation of Biological Resources and Their Ecosystems Law of 1990 (Law No.5/1990), which provides for the preservation of plant and wildlife species diversity and their ecosystems, and the sustainable utilization of biodiversity; the Preservation of Wildlife and Plant Species Regulation of 1999 (Government Regulation No.7/1999), which aims to avoid the extinction of plant and wildlife species, maintain the genetic purity and diversity of plant and wildlife species, and maintain the balance and stability of ecosystems; the Environmental Protection and Management Law of 2009 (Law No.32/2009) regulating environmental protection and management in Indonesia; the Forestry Law of 1999 (Law No.41/1999) providing the legal framework for the forestry sector; the Fisheries Law (Law No.31/2004 amended by law No.45/2009) providing the legal framework for the management of fish resources that includes control of fishing activities, catches, revenue as well as enhancement of aquaculture production; and the Coastal and Small Islands Management Law ( Law No.27/2007 amended by UU No. 1/2014) which regulates coastal and small island resources management and acknowledges the local and traditional communities living in these areas; among others .
The Government of Indonesia has also developed a strategy and action plan for several endangered species and ecosystems, such as peatland, helmeted hornbill, Sumatran rhinoceros, Sumatran tiger etc. .
Successes and remaining challenges
Some progress has been made by the Government of Indonesia related to the conservation of the country’s biodiversity. Achievements include: Indonesia receiving its first payment for its performance in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from land use change; strong efforts to combat Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing have shown some increases in fish stocks; the Government of Indonesia has taken strong measures to implement social forestry and marine tenure programs for sustainable and equitable use of natural resources; and Indonesia has seen a growing (but small) interest in local governments to engage in sustainable natural resource management .
Nevertheless, the effective management of biodiversity in Indonesia is hindered by weak governance, including low commitment and political will for biodiversity conservation, corruption, overlapping authorities, weak coordination in natural resources management, and weak enforcement of biodiversity-related legislation and policies, which is complicated by the size and archipelagic nature of Indonesia .
The Government’s efforts to enforce the country’s biodiversity-related laws is constrained by limited resources and uneven institutional capacities. For instance, local governments often lack human resource capacity and budgetary resources to manage resources sustainably, while the national government lacks the ability to enforce legal protections at the district and provincial level. This lack of legal environmental protection at all levels contributes to environmental degradation, as the country continues to focus on natural resource extraction for short-term financial gain .
Further, despite two decades of efforts to reform marine governance to support more sustainable uses in Indonesia, little has changed, as the institutions that govern marine areas in Indonesia have been shaped by and appropriated to support extractive land-based economic activities. For instance, North Kalimantan has been designated as one of the main provinces supporting ocean biodiversity and yet, almost half of the coastal and marine areas under its jurisdiction have been allocated for seaport development. Similar situations can also be found in Central Java, South Sulawesi, and North Sulawesi, where more than one third of the marine area in each province has been allocated for large-scale infrastructure development. In Lampung, Bangka-Belitung, and Banten provinces, marine protected areas are now surrounded by areas designated for seabed mining and oil exploration .
Initiatives and Development Plans
The Tropical Landscapes Finance Facility is a partnership between UNEP, the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forests, ADM Capital, BNP Paribas and local non-governmental organizations, which has channelled US$95 million in financing to Indonesia’s rubber producers. The Tropical Landscapes Finance Facility is a practical solution to accelerate investment in deforestation free supply chains by providing long-term capital with strict sustainability-linked lending criteria to stimulate green growth and local livelihoods, protect biodiversity and shield agriculture production from future climate hazards. Along with funding compact rubber plantations, it has also helped to create 9,700 ha of conservation area beside Bukit Tigapuluh National Park which has served as a transit corridor for elephants, tigers, orangutans, sun bears and various endangered bird species .
Initiated in 1998, the Coral Reef Rehabilitation and Management Program – Coral Triangle Initiative (COREMAP-CTI) is a long-term program to preserve coral reefs in Indonesia from destructive fishing practices, pollution, and climate change. The COREMAP-CTI is one of the real efforts of the Government of Indonesia to preserve marine and coastal resources while increasing the welfare of coastal communities. The Ministry of National Development Planning of the Republic of Indonesia/National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) is implementing activities sourced from grants from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) managed by the World Bank (WB) and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) .
The Sulu-Sulawesi Seascape, which is located in the Coral Triangle across 900,000 square kilometres of water between the land masses of Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines, is home to one of the world’s most diverse marine environments. To conserve this unique marine ecosystem, the EU’s Marine Biodiversity and Support of Coastal Fisheries in the Coral Triangle project aims to improve the management of commercially and ecologically important fisheries, especially small-scale operations, and create marine protected areas (MPAs) with long-term financial arrangements. The project will also focus on supporting local communities who rely on marine resources for their livelihoods through enhanced fisheries management and the provision of alternative livelihoods. In Indonesia, the project will provide assistance to communities in North Maluku and North Sulawesi, aiming to support 82,300 livelihoods. Approximately 12,300 fishers in North Maluku will be supported through enhanced fisheries management .
- Mainstream biodiversity and ecosystem values into all national development policy and planning.
- The government must provide adequate funding for biodiversity conservation.
- Facilitate evidence-based decision-making and enhance research on ecosystem valuation.
- Support regulations and policies regarding payments for ecosystem services (PES).
- Utilize natural capital accounting (NCA) to measure the contribution of natural capital to Indonesia’s wealth and development opportunities, to support the shifting of investments towards nature-smart actions and behaviours that can simultaneously contribute to sustainable growth, fight climate change, and preserve nature .
- Invest in nature-based solutions and ecosystem-based adaptation measures.
- Strengthen institutional governance for sustainable natural resources management, including through institutionalizing roles and responsibilities at provincial and district levels.
- Capacity building on awareness of the importance of protecting biodiversity, particularly for provincial and district governments.
- Strengthen law enforcement capabilities and eradicate corruption.
- Strengthen civil society, academia, and the media to play leading roles as watchdogs monitoring compliance with and enforcement of biodiversity conservation policies, laws, and regulations.
- Improve the management of Forest Management Units (FMUs) and Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
- Facilitate the development and adoption of local level forest management plans and strategies, including for forest fire prevention, that both involve stakeholders and improve governance.
- Support for the creation more incentive-based approaches to natural resource management.
- Engage civil society in sustainable natural resource management.
- Increase the environmental consciousness among the general population.
- Promote private sector adoption of sustainable sourcing, procurement, and greening of supply chains across sectors.
- Institutionalize incentives for private companies, such as tax and regulatory relief, to establish, maintain, and invest in conservation areas and sustainable management and provide sustainable financing.
- Enhance transparent accountability systems to monitor social and environmental safeguards.
- Facilitate private sector partnerships directly with local governments that guarantee biodiversity and tropical forests are conserved.
- Strengthen national biodiversity information and monitoring systems.
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