Development Corridors and Remnant-Forest Conservation in Sumatra

By 27th November 2019Conservation Papers


Road-infrastructure development in Southeast Asia is opening new resource frontiers but also consolidating earlier investments in agriculture and trade, as illustrated by the 2,700-km Trans-Sumatra Highway planned for Sumatra, Indonesia. In contrast to earlier broadscale forest losses in Sumatra, driven historically in Sumatra infrastructure and agricultural expansion, the Trans-Sumatra Highway would largely affect remnant forests. We identify Kerinci Seblat National Park and its surrounds, the Leuser Ecosystem, and the Batang Toru area as three remnant-forest areas critical to Sumatra’s ecological integrity and facing conservation challenges that would be significantly aggravated by the Trans-Sumatra Highway. If completed as planned, the highway will promote human incursions into the fringes of these areas. New Indonesian regulations concerning road developments in forests are unlikely to prevent such outcomes. The regulations afford weaker protections to ungazetted and noncore protected forests, which typify remnant-forest areas threatened by infrastructure expansion and are often critical for species conservation. We urge that ungazetted protected forests be given equal priority to gazetted protected forests in regard to conservation planning for road development, and also that gazetted forests be expanded in the Leuser Ecosystem and Batang Toru area to hedge against further incursions. Without such provisions, recent legal challengesto road developments in Sumatra’s remnant forests have often been unsuccessful. The Trans-Sumatra Highway may conceivably promote an effective legal alliance between conservationists and agricultural communities threatened with landexpropriation, given that nearly half of the highway’s route remains pending contentious land-acquisition processes.

Sean Sloan, Mohammed Alamgir, Mason J. Campbell, Titiek Setyawati, and William F. Laurance.  Development Corridors and Remnant-Forest Conservation in Sumatra, Indonesia. Tropical Conservation Science (2019) Volume 12: 1–9