The aim of “The Size of Jersey” to clear and reforest 4 illegally planted palm oil concessions within the boundary of The Leuser Ecosystem, Sumatra whose combined area is equal in size to our island (11,654 hectares). This will be achieved through partnering with Indonesian conservation group Forum Konservasi Leuser (FKL). This project will allow the island to offset approximately one third of our annual carbon emissions whilst restoring vital wildlife habitat in one of the worlds most biodiverse and threatened ecosystems.
Map showing the location of the proposed restoration sites in relation to Indonesia and Sumatra.
Land area comparison between Jersey and the proposed restoration sites in The Leuser Ecosystem, Sumatra.
In addition to the threat of climate change the world is seeing a dramatic decline in natural habitat with 7 million hectares of forest being lost each year. The biggest drivers of forest destruction today are the expansion of agricultural industries such as palm oil, fabric, paper and logging. Only 4 billion hectares of forest remain worldwide according to Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015.
Indonesia’s rainforests are one of earth’s most biologically and culturally rich landscapes. Incredibly, with just 1 percent of the Earth’s land area, Indonesian rainforests contain 10% of the world’s known plants, 12% of mammals and 17% of all known bird species.
As recently as the 1960s, 80% of Indonesia was forested. Sadly the region now has one of the highest deforestation rates in the world, with just under half of the country’s original forest cover remaining. Conservative studies suggest more than 2.4 million acres of Indonesian rainforest is cleared each year.
The critically important Leuser Ecosystem is among the most ancient and life-rich ecosystems ever documented by science, and is the last place on Earth where Sumatran orangutans, elephants, tigers and rhinos still roam the same habitat. Located mostly within the province of Aceh on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra, the Leuser Ecosystem is by every measure a world-class hotspot of biodiversity and is widely acknowledged to be among the most important areas of intact rainforest left in all of Southeast Asia.
But the Leuser Ecosystem exists at a tenuous crossroads. Despite being technically protected under Indonesian national law, industrial development for palm oil, as well as other extractive industries, continue to threaten the entire ecosystem, as well as the wellbeing of millions of Acehnese people who depend on it for their food, water and livelihoods.
CO2 emissions are one of the major drivers of climate change or the steady rise in global temperatures caused by the burning of fossil fuels. Official Jersey Meteorological Department data shows that the Island’s average temperature has increased by 1.5°C since 1900 and seven of the top ten hottest years on record have occurred since 2000.
The dramatic lifestyle changes required to reduce our on-island carbon emissions will be a difficult if necessary endeavour if Jersey is serious about achieving carbon neutrality by 2030. Whilst some of these changes may prove unpopular with islanders there are opportunities within the challenges to unite and inspire our community through tackling the double threat of climate change and species extinction.
Planting new forests and rehabilitating degraded forests contribute to mitigating climate change as these actions increase the rate and quantity of carbon absorption from the atmosphere. Restored forests can absorb up to 17 tonnes of carbon per hectare per year when averaged out over the first 20 years from initial planting. This value increases significantly as the forests reach maturity.
Based on these conservative figures, restoring an area of rainforest the size of Jersey (11,654 hectares) within the boundaries of The Leuser Ecosystem would sequester 129,000 tonnes of CO2 per year, or one third of Jerseys annual CO2 emissions. Mature forest in Leuser hold up to 900 tonnes of carbon per hectare therefore their ability to absorb CO2 increases dramatically over time. The sites under consideration are presently illegally planted palm oil monocultures therefore do not support any wild animal communities therefore returning the land to nature would allow the return of wildlife to these areas.