Since 2003 the Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT) has been coordinating a research programme that focuses on the endangered coastal ecosystems in Indonesia. Working together, researchers from the Leibniz Association and the Helmholtz Association as well as from German and Indonesian universities have been building a knowledge base over the past years that shall serve the protection and sustainable use of Indonesian coastal waters. Now, as a result of its successful evaluation, the programme is entering into its third phase: the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) will finance the programme with approximately EUR 5.7 million for another three years.
Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world. It consists of 17,500 islands and with 81,000 km has the world’s second longest coastline after Canada. The island nation is located in the so-called Coral Triangle and is one of the world’s most important centres of biodiversity, with highly productive ecosystems such as coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass meadows. They form the basis of life for millions of people. However, due to intensive economic activities and the dense population – more than 130 million people live in the coastal regions – these ecosystems are subject to enormous pressure.
The scientists are focusing on ecological hotspots: the coral reefs of the Spermonde Archipelago, which are exposed to the stress of destructive fishing and the influx of untreated sewage, the deforested peat forests of Sumatra, from which large amounts of carbon are released into the atmosphere and reach the coastal seas, or the largest mangrove area of Java, which is threatened by silt deposits.
“More than 90% of Indonesia’s reefs are already endangered,” said the ZMT ecologist Sebastian Ferse. In one of the SPICE projects he investigated how the reef resources were used in the Spermonde Archipelago. In doing so, he studied – the partly illegal – fishing methods and the social and economic dependencies of the local fishermen. In the new program, he and his colleagues will focus on the fishing grounds in the Bay of Jakarta. This densely populated region is subject to the strongest human impact in all of Indonesia. This raises the question how untreated sewage and industrial waste affect the marine organisms there and, via the food chain, ultimately also affect people.
A priority of Indonesian governmental policy is to sustainably ensure the basis of life of the coastal population. As part of the Coral Triangle Initiative which six coastal countries of Southeast Asia have joined, a national action plan has been developed in Indonesia. The new SPICE programme primarily focuses on three goals of the plan: a holistic approach to the management of marine resources taking the entire ecosystem into consideration, the successful management of protected marine areas and the adaptation to the consequences of climate change.
Dr. Claudia Schultz
Leibniz-Zentrum für Marine Tropenökologie
Tel: 0421 / 23800 – 154