Flora of Indonesia
The flora consists of many unique varieties of tropical plants. Blessed with a tropical climate and around 17,000 islands, Indonesia is a nation with the second largest biodiversity in the world. The flora of Indonesia reflects an intermingling of Asian, Australian and the native species. This is due to the geography of Indonesia, located between two continents. The archipelago consists of a variety of regions from the tropical rain forests of the northern lowlands and the seasonal forests of the southern lowlands through the hill and mountain vegetation, to subalpine shrub vegetation. Having the second longest shoreline in the world, Indonesia also has many regions of swamps and coastal vegetation. Combined, these all give rise to a huge vegetational biodiversity. There are about 28,000 species of flowering plants in Indonesia, consisting 2500 different kinds of orchids, 6000 traditional medicinal plants used as Jamu., 122 species of bamboo, over 350 species of rattan and 400 species of Dipterocarpus, including ebony, sandalwood and teakwood. Indonesia is also home to some unusual species such as carnivorous plants. One exceptional species is known as Rafflesia arnoldi, named after Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles and Dr. Thomas Arnold, who discovered the flower in the depths of Bengkulu, southwest Sumatra. This parasitic plant has a large flower, does not produce leaves and grow on a certain liana on the rain forest floor. Another unusual plant is Amorphophallus titanum from Sumatra. Numerous species of insect trapping pitcher plants (Nepenthes spp.) can also be found in Borneo, Sumatra, and other islands of the Indonesian archipelago.
Origin of Indonesian flora
The origin of flora in Indonesia is heavily affected by geographical and geological events in Asian continent and Australasian continent (now Australia). The present New Guinea island was connected with the present Australia continent, forming a supercontinent called the southern supercontinent Gondwana. This supercontinent began to break up 140 million years ago, and the New Guinea region (previously known as Sahul) moved towards the equator. As a result, animals from New Guinea travelled to Australian continent and vice versa, creating many different species living in different ecosystems. These activities still occur until the two regions separated completely.
Asian continent influences, on the other hand, is the result of the reformation of the Laurasia supercontinent, which existed after the break-up of Rodinia around 1 billion years ago. Around 200 million years ago, the Laurasia supercontinent split completely, forming Laurentia (now America) and Eurasia continents. Although this occurred, the mainland of the Eurasia continent, including China, was not separated completely from the Indonesian archipelago. As a result, plants from the Eurasia mainland could propagate to the archipelago, and, under a different ecosystems, new forms of species were formed
In the nineteenth century, Alfred Russel Wallace proposed the idea of the Wallace Line, which is a line that divides Indonesian archipelago into two regions, the Asian biogeographical region (Sundaland) and the Australasia biogeographical Region (Wallacea). The line runs through the Indonesian Archipelago, between Borneo and Sulawesi (Celebes); and between Bali and Lombok.
The Indonesian archipelago, home of the Spice Islands, has been known since ancient time as the source of spices, such as clove, nutmeg, and pepper. The Maluku Islands were, until the late eighteenth century, the only source of economically significant spices. In the colonial time, clove and nutmeg were the most valuable commodities after gold and silver for the most Europeans. During the Dutch colonial era in Indonesia, the Dutch also created many plantages (plantations) of coffee, tea and sugar cane, mostly in Java.
Along with the history of Indonesia the sailors from India, China and Europe have brought also new kinds of plant species to this archipelago. Plant species, which are not native to this archipelago, such as tea, coffee and rubber tree are then established.
Indonesia's terrestrial flora can be collected into characteristic vegetation groups. The most important determinant is rainfall, followed by temperature which affects water availability. The distribution of Indonesian flora is dominated by the broadleaf evergreen forests. This is mostly seen in the regions where population density is still relatively low, such as Sumatra, Borneo, Sulawesi and West Papua. On Java and Bali the vegetation is dominated by cultivated plants. Swamp forests, mangrove, and Nypa fruticans forests are found along the coast. On the mountainous regions subalpine and alpine vegetation is dominant. In the lesser Sunda islands, where rainfall is not as plentiful as in other parts of Indonesia, grasslands are regularly seen.
According to the Conservation International, there are two biodiversity hotspots in Indonesia: Wallacea and Sundaland. The provinces of West Papua and Papua are also extremely biodiverse. Lorentz National Park, located in the province of Papua, was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999 by UNESCO.
Sundaland, which is located on the west part of the Indonesian archipelago, holds about 25,000 different species of plants. 15,000 of them are endemic to this region and cannot be found anywhere else. Scyphostegiaceae is a plant family represented by a single species, Scyphostegia borneensis, which is endemic to Borneo. Another 155 species of Dipterocarpus are also endemic to this island. Borneo also has more than 2,000 species of orchids. The forests in Sumatra include more than 100 species of Dipterocarpus, nearly a dozen of them are endemic to this island. The island Java has about 270 endemic orchid species.
At least 117 plant genera are endemic to this biodiversity hotspot. 59 of them are found in Borneo and 17 in Sumatra. Unique plants from this region are similar to ones from the Asian continent, mentioning Rafflesia arnoldii, the pitcher plants and Javanese Edelweiss (Anaphalis javanica) as examples.
It is estimated, that there are about 10,000 species of plants in this biodiversity hotspot region. About 1,200 species and 12 genera are endemic. The island of Sulawesi has about 500 endemic plant species. The islands of Moluccas have about 300 endemic plant species and the Lesser Sunda Islands consist of at least 110 endemic plant species. Little is known about the flora of this region. Three of these unique species, Agathis, Pterocarpus indicus and Eucalyptus deglupta, are mentioned as examples.
West Papua and Papua
The flora of this region has somewhat the influence of the Australian continent. This region contain a continuous transect from snow cap mountains, lowland wetlands to tropical marine environment. This is the perfect place for such a huge number of diverse plant species. It has been estimated that Papua and west Papua may contain from 20,000 to 25,000 species of vascular plants. An astonishing 60-90% of them may be endemic to this region. This region has been poorly explored so the actual number of endemic species is unknown.
Indonesia's national flowers
Melati (Jasminum sambac), a small white flower with a sweet fragrance, is the national flower of Indonesia, together with Anggrek Bulan (Phalaenopsis amabilis) and Padma Raksasa Rafflesia (Rafflesia arnoldii). All three were chosen on World Environment Day on 5 June 1990 by President Soeharto. On the other occasion Bunga Bangkai (Titan arum) was also added as puspa langka together with Rafflesia. Each of Indonesian provinces also have their own floral emblems.
National love flora and fauna day
To build respect and love for the Indonesian flora and fauna, the Government has declared 5 November as the national love flora and fauna day. Annually there are postage stamps released with this motto. They show pictures of plants and animals, which are endemic or unique to a specific region or a province of Indonesia.
Deforestation is a major problem in Indonesia. The current rate is a loss of 2 million hectares per year. As a highly populous country with the tendency of rapid industrialisation, the need of natural resources and land also increases. Illegally created wildfire causes heavy smog around Indonesia's neighbour countries.
According to the Indonesian department of forestry, there are currently 174 plants endemic to Indonesia listed as endangered species.
Maintaining the balance between the need of economical growth of the country and the preservation of its natural heritage is not an easy duty. Just like other developing nations, Indonesia is currently trying to keep this balance. Ecotourism might be one solution to this problem. Using the biodiversity, Indonesia might improve the economical status of its isolated regions.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Flora of Indonesia.|
- List of Indonesian floral emblems
- List of national parks of Indonesia
- Geography of Indonesia
- Fauna of Indonesia
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