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The Future of the Bornean Orangutan

Impacts of Change in Land and Climate

image of The Future of the Bornean Orangutan

Over the past century, orangutan populations in Southeast Asia have seen a very steep decline, driven to the brink of extinction by a host of man-made threats. Deforestation, illegal logging, the expansion of agro-industrial plantations and hunting – these forces combined to isolate orangutans into precarious pockets of forest on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra. Now, a new threat has emerged: climate change. This report assesses the impacts of land cover change and climate change on Borneo's endangered orangutans. It also examines the major driver of deforestation – the expansion of oil palm – and analyses how various land-use scenarios might impact the region through different climate change projections. As global initiatives are being set in place, it is encouraged to utilize these approaches to ensure a path towards sustainable development, not just for the benefit of humankind, but also for its closest relatives, the orangutans.

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Land-cover and climate change impacts on the Bornean orangutan

Climate change and habitat alteration are two of the greatest anthropogenic threats faced by terrestrial biodiversity, and so represent major challenges and priorities in conservation (Brook et al. 2008). These two threats acting together may prove particularly difficult for the survival of many species, including the orangutan. Across the world the ranges of numerous species are shifting to higher latitudes or elevations in association with climate warming, and local extinctions continue to be documented for those species that have been unable to do so (Parmesan 2006). Recent estimates indicate that, on average, every ten years range-shifting species are moving northwards or southwards by around 17 km, and upslope by 11 m (Chen et al. 2011).

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