Friday, February 1, 2013

Figs planting to save endangered species in Borneo?

Orang utan on fig tree

Borneo and Sumatra are the only places on Earth where tigers, rhinos, orangutans, and elephants live together. The forests are home to marvelous creatures like the proboscis monkey, sun bear, clouded leopard, and flying fox bat, and endangered animals like the Sumatran tiger, Sumatran rhino, and pygmy elephant.

A research has been carried out in Maliau Basin where the researchers picked a single fig tree (Ficus caulocarpa) and surveyed the species feeding from it over a 5-day-period. According to their findings (published in Tropical Conservation Science), it shows that a fig tree over a short period of time feeds a high percentage of endangered species. This indirectly will save the Borneo's frugivores (fruit-eating species) from extinction. 

Figs produce fruit year round hence provide a constant source of fruit to frugivores. For example, studies in Borneo have found that 42 percent of known birds and 73 percent of known mammals feed on figs. But the fig-eating animals repay the trees by spreading their seeds—and genetics—across the forest.

Ecosystem health can be roughly analyzed by monitoring species at fig trees in other areas of Borneo. Figs not only provide food for wildlife but also save them from extinction. 

Frugivores are very sensitive to hunting and deforestation. Therefore, it is highly recommended to replanting figs in disturbed forest to boost fruit availability for endangered species.


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