Rain Forest Politics: Ecological Destruction in South-East Asia
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Away from riverbanks , swamps and clearings, where dense undergrowth is found, the forest floor is relatively clear of vegetation because of the low sunlight penetration. It also contains decaying plant and animal matter, which disappears quickly, because the warm, humid conditions promote rapid decay. Many forms of fungi growing here help decay the animal and plant waste.
More than half of the world's species of plants and animals are found in the rainforest. Mammals may include primates , felids and other families. Reptiles include snakes , turtles , chameleons and other families; while birds include such families as vangidae and Cuculidae. Dozens of families of invertebrates are found in rainforests.
Fungi are also very common in rainforest areas as they can feed on the decomposing remains of plants and animals. The great diversity in rainforest species is in large part the result of diverse and numerous physical refuges ,  i. Having numerous refuges available also results in much higher total biomass than would otherwise be possible. Despite the growth of vegetation in a tropical rainforest, soil quality is often quite poor. Rapid bacterial decay prevents the accumulation of humus. The concentration of iron and aluminium oxides by the laterization process gives the oxisols a bright red colour and sometimes produces mineral deposits such as bauxite.
Most trees have roots near the surface, because there are insufficient nutrients below the surface; most of the trees' minerals come from the top layer of decomposing leaves and animals. On younger substrates, especially of volcanic origin, tropical soils may be quite fertile. If rainforest trees are cleared, rain can accumulate on the exposed soil surfaces, creating run-off and beginning a process of soil erosion. Eventually streams and rivers form and flooding becomes possible. There are several reasons for the poor soil quality: First is that the soil is highly acidic.
The roots of plants rely on an acidity difference between the roots and the soil in order to absorb nutrients. When the soil is acidic, there is little difference, and therefore little absorption of nutrients from the soil. Second, the type of clay particles present in tropical rainforest soil has a poor ability to trap nutrients and stop them from washing away. Even if humans artificially add nutrients to the soil, the nutrients mostly wash away and are not absorbed by the plants.
Thirdly, the type of clay particles present in tropical rainforest soil has a poor ability to trap nutrients and stop them from washing away.
Even if humans artificially added nutrients to the soil, the nutrients would still mostly wash away and not absorbed by the plants. Finally, these soils are poor due to the high volume of rain in tropical rainforests washes nutrients out of the soil more quickly than in other climates.
A natural rainforest emits and absorbs vast quantities of carbon dioxide. On a global scale, long-term fluxes are approximately in balance, so that an undisturbed rainforest would have a small net impact on atmospheric carbon dioxide levels,  though they may have other climatic effects on cloud formation, for example, by recycling water vapour.
No rainforest today can be considered to be undisturbed. Tropical rainforests provide timber as well as animal products such as meat and hides. Rainforests also have value as tourism destinations and for the ecosystem services provided. Many foods originally came from tropical forests, and are still mostly grown on plantations in regions that were formerly primary forest. On January 18, , FUNAI reported also that it had confirmed the presence of 67 different uncontacted tribes in Brazil, up from 40 in With this addition, Brazil has now overtaken the island of New Guinea as the country having the largest number of uncontacted tribes.
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There are many tribes in the rainforests of the Malaysian state of Sarawak. Sarawak is part of Borneo, the third largest island in the world. Collectively, they are referred to as Dayaks or Orangulu which means "people of the interior". About half of Sarawak's 1. Most Dayaks, it is believed thropologists, came originally from the South-East Asian mainland.
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Their mythologies support this. Tropical and temperate rainforests have been subjected to heavy legal and illegal logging for their valuable hardwoods and agricultural clearance slash-and-burn , clearcutting throughout the 20th century and the area covered by rainforests around the world is shrinking. Wilson of Harvard University , a quarter or more of all species on Earth could be exterminated within 50 years  due to the removal of habitat with destruction of the rainforests.
Another factor causing the loss of rainforest is expanding urban areas. Littoral rainforest growing along coastal areas of eastern Australia is now rare due to ribbon development to accommodate the demand for seachange lifestyles. Forests are being destroyed at a rapid pace. In Indonesia, palm oil is already cultivated on nine million hectares and, together with Malaysia , the island nation produces about 85 percent of the world's palm oil. In addition, Malaysia had 1,, ha of planted forest.
Forest cover has fallen dramatically since the s. The rate is accelerating faster than that of any other tropical country in the world. The FAO says that only Between and , Malaysia lost an average of 96, ha or 0. In total, between and , Malaysia lost 8.
Figure 3. Land use changes in Malaysia — Source Butler Figure 3 summarises the major land use changes in Malaysia. Land use change prior to the establishment of new oil palm plantations is shown on the left with the total annual increase in oil palm plantations at the bottom of each pie chart on the left. What happened to the land following forest conversion is shown in the middle with the annual rate of deforestation in the lower left corner.
The graph on the right shows the net land use change over each five-year period. Several points can be drawn from these data.
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The amount of upland forest lost is considerable. There has been a decline in the rate of forest loss over the two time periods. Most of the forest has been converted into palm oil plantations. Figure 3 suggests that the only two categories to show gains in land use have been oil palm and bare soil. All other land use types show a decline with upland forest showing the greatest losses.
It should be noted that converting upland dipterocarp forest into palm oil plantations does not trap as much carbon for many years and is therefore adding to global climate change. Logging is also responsible and green groups have blamed local timber companies for failing to practice sustainable forest management. Loggers are now operating in more marginal areas on rugged mountain slopes, which increases the risk of soil erosion and mudslides.
In Sabah North-eastern Borneo , logging has slowed over the years after a period of rapid deforestation. Timber production appears to have shifted to Sarawak North-western Borneo , where about half the forest cover is scheduled for logging. About eight percent of the land area in Sarawak is designated as reserves, but these protected areas are generally understaffed and threatened by illegal logging and encroachment by colonists who settle along logging roads.
Case Study: The Bornean Orangutan. Hunting, habitat destruction, habitat degradation and fragmentation are the main causes behind the decline in this species which is now critically endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature IUCN. In , only While much of this land is technically protected by the governments, illegal logging and uncontrolled burning are still continual threats. In addition, the smaller patches of remaining forest may be unable to sustain the groups currently living there.
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A Google map image of forest fires throughout south-east Asia in September But he's still there, as the governor of Sarawak, and his family has a stranglehold over the economy in Sarawak.