Ecologist Helps Environment
For ecologist Elizabeth Linda Yuliani, the rich ecosystem of Lake Sentarum National Park in West Kalimantan is highly enjoyable because the surrounding provides breathtaking views to explore. Linda recalled that when she visited the park for the first time in December 2004, she was astonished.
“Wow, it’s very beautiful. It is remote, mysterious, magical and silent. Time seems to stop ticking,” Linda said in her office at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) in Bogor, West Java. As visitors to Lake Sentarum, Linda and her fellow researchers stayed on a houseboat, called motor bandong by locals. Living on a houseboat, Linda could observe eagles flying, orangutans and other wildlife Kurniawan Hari explains.
The researchers also observed and interacted with the local people, many of who made a living by fishing. Residents generally started their daily activities at 4 a.m., when they went to the lake for fish.
Lake Sentarum is a unique environment. During raining session, the water floods the surrounding forest while in the dry season, the lake will turn into a dry bed dotted with a number of pools.
The beauty of Lake Sentarum and its ecosystem faces threats from the increasing population that clears the forest for farming. The area is also threatened by plans from the business sector to open oil palm plantations.
It was in this area that Linda and her colleagues carried out research on the potential of the forest ecosystem to provide a sustainable livelihood for the local people.
“With my team members, I researched orchids, fruits and other non-timber forest products,” said Linda, who has a Masters in Ecology and Environmental Management from the UK’s University of York.
The team also researched the local fish population to help residents understand the best way to cultivate them.
“We researched the impact of oil palm plantations and other monoculture plantations on the ecosystem. Hopefully, I can research orangutans next year,” she added.
The results of CIFOR researches are usually published as a report and in a newsletter for decision-makers, local residents and the media.
For example, the July newsletter highlights the use of the crawl space under a rumah panggung, a traditional Kalimantan house made of wood and built on 2- to 10-meter stilts. The house is designed to protect inhabitants from floods and wildlife.
However, the local people typically use the space under the house as a garbage dump or as an enclosure for their livestock, which makes them vulnerable to disease.
Through the newsletter, CIFOR researchers suggest that residents relocate the garbage dump or livestock enclosure farther away, and on open ground. The crawl space can then be used for planting orchids or other productive plants.
Such ideas are designed to help promote a healthier lifestyle and alternative means of income among the local people.