indonesia forest
 
 
 


FOREST COVER

Land on which trees form the dominant vegetation type. The FAO defines forest as land with tree crown cover of more than 10 percent of the ground and land area of more than 0.5 ha. In addition, the trees should characteristically reach a minimum height of 5 m at maturity. It should be noted that a canopy cover threshold of 10 percent represents quite sparse tree cover; most natural forest in Indonesia is closed canopy forest. The Indonesian government uses a land use definition of forest in the various land use classes that comprise “Permanent Forest Status”. However, up to 20 percent of Permanent Forest Status land has been deforested.

FOREST COVER


forest cover

 

FOREST COVER

 

FOREST COVER AND CHANGE

Given current climate and topography, we know that forests would blanket Indonesia today if people did not need to clear trees for agriculture, infrastructure, and settlements. We cannot be sure how much forest covered Indonesia in the distant past but, based on estimates of potential vegetation cover (that is, the areas potentially covered by different forest types, given the appropriate climatic and ecological conditions and no human intervention), we can reasonably conclude that the country was almost completely forested (MacKinnon, 1997). Only narrow coastal strips and the steepest mountain slopes would have been unable to support tree growth.

As late as 1900, Indonesia was still a densely forested country. According to modeled estimates by the World Bank, forest cover in the three major islands of Sumatra, Kalimantan, and Sulawesi at that time still totaled 103 million ha (Holmes, 2000). This represents a reduction of only about 13 percent from their original forest cover, as estimated by MacKinnon.

In 1950, what was then called the Indonesian Forest Service produced a vegetation map of the country; it concluded that nearly 84 percent of Indonesia’s land area was covered in primary and secondary forest and plantations of such estate crops as tea, coffee, and rubber. The survey aggregated plantations in the “forest” category and thus did not provide an estimate of their extent, but it is clear that plantations and smallholder plantings of tree crops covered only a small area in 1950. Dutch colonial records from 1939 estimated that largescale plantations included approximately 2.5 million ha “in exploitation,” of which only 1.2 million ha were actually planted. The sector stagnated during the 1940s and 1950s and would reach the 1939 level of area planted again only in the 1970s. Smallholder tree crop area was only 4.6 million ha in 1969, and a large part of this area was planted in the 1950s and 1960s (Booth, 1988). In 1950, teak plantations on Java covered an additional 824,000 ha (Peluso, 1992. The major cause of forest clearance that had occurred up to 1950 was agriculture, notably rice cultivation.

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Imperata cylindrica
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