Indonesia: LIPI launches expedition to Wallacea in search of undiscovered species 9 Apr 16;

The Indonesian Science Institute (LIPI) plans to launch a three-week expedition to Sumba in East Nusa Tenggara and West Sulawesi on April 15 to explore hidden biodiversity, including endemic flora, fauna and micro-organisms.

The end of the expedition is expected to pave the way for further development and local welfare.

The Widya Nusantara Expedition will involve two teams consisting of 70 researchers, with a budget of Rp 2.1 billion (US$ 159,756).

“The expedition aims to show the vast biodiversity that can be used by local communities and regional governments,” LIPI chairman Iskandar Zulkarnain said on Friday, referring to the burgeoning global bio-resources industry.

Senior LIPI researcher Anas Saidi said the expedition would benefit both science and society.

Sumba and West Sulawesi are both located within Wallacea, a biogeographical transition zone from Asia to Australia in central Indonesia, which is believed to have immense biodiversity. According to the institute, many endemic species remain unrecorded, including fungi, microbes and, on Sumba, freshwater micro-flora and micro-fauna.

LIPI life sciences researcher Witjaksono said that West Sulawesi had a high level of endemism as a result of its geological history, Sulawesi having been formed by at least five paleo-islands.

“Besides, West Sulawesi is a relatively new province [having been formed in 2004]. So we need to explore more data about its biodiversity,” he said.

Meanwhile, Indonesian Biodiversity Foundation (Kehati) program manager Basuki Rahmad said that further exploration was needed in Sumba and West Sulawesi, as the areas were home to several endemic species vulnerable to the illegal wildlife trade.

“There are lots of rare species of birds in those regions regarded as ‘sexy’ commodities for the illegal wildlife trade,” Basuki said. “As such, the expedition is needed to check the real situation on the ground.”

LIPI is also to send a separate expedition to Sumba from July 26 to Aug. 15. The assigned team will include 30 terrestrial researchers looking to explore oceanography, seismogenic zones and ecological connectivity around the island. (vps/bbn)