This morning my colleague Prayoto Tonoto sent me a diagram. It illustrated the stages in the transformation of forests from closed canopy systems to the monocultural plantations that are such a major feature of Riau’s landscape.
In an earlier blog post, I made mention of these stages
Stage 1: Selection Logging
Selective logging over a 20-year period. Logs are can be removed using push carts on portable light rail systems or slid along tree trunks. This opens up the canopy lowering humidity and making forest prone to fires in dry periods. If selection cutting is carefully controlled such impacts can be contained but regulation is difficult.
This process is not always legal and can involve incursion into Parks, Conservation areas and Reserves. It is also often at the expense of the land rights of Indigenous people.
Stage 2: More extensive illegal logging
This can also involve the use of small streams for log transport. Being non-selective this type of extraction can cause irreversible degrading of the forest ecosystem and loss of forest cover.
Stage 3: Slash & Burn Encroachment
Drainage of peat is essential for any agricultural crop (except for sago on the coast). In some cases, small ditches left from previous illegal logging are used to assist peatland drainage. Once an area is dry, fire is the cheapest means available for land clearing. On peatland, without rain, fires can smoulder and farmers are neither motivated nor do they have the capability to extinguish fires. When rains don’t come, as in the El Nino year of 2015 fires can spread, raging out of control.
Stage 4: Productive Agriculture
Next, the opportunistic patchwork is gradually transformed into organized plantations of palm oil and rubber. Pioneers are bought or pushed out by larger organisations that have acquired concessional access or land titles. In these situations, the focus is on legal compliance but auditing is difficult and breaches of codes continue.
Developing the diagram
The basic diagram, in the centre, is clear enough. Since we’ve both collected many images documenting this process I decided to combine some of them. Here is the result. I think it conveys a more accurate sense of what is going on in Riau.
This post is in collaboration with Prayoto Tonoto who has many years experience in forestry in Riau Province, Indonesia. He is now at Hiroshima University completing a Master of Engineering in Development Technology. His principal skills and expertise lie in Conservation Biology, Agriculture, Landscape Ecology, Carbon Sequestration, Land Use Change and Wetland Ecology.