Welcome to the jungle, baby! – Sampling in the Forest around Malang

Our last stop in East Java was going to be our biggest adventure – sampling bananas and Panama disease in the wild – in the forest. We stayed overnight as the only guests in the LIPI guesthouse in Malang – in the very dark, very big and somewhat spooky botanical garden. Malang means “Unfortunate” in Indonesian.

Unfortunate is also a good word to describe the state of the forest in Indonesia. Indonesia is shifting from being a forest-rich country to a forest-poor country. Illegal logging for the wood-processing industry and forest conversion to crop plantations led to a loss of 64 million hectares of rain forest in the past 50 years. 64 million hectare! If the speed of deforestation continues, no forest will remain in Indonesia by 2080.

The Forest near Malang.

The Forest near Malang.

The forest we visited was, what is called, “degraded forest” – too much touched by human influence. It could have been a little paradise: A waterfall feeding a small river through the bountiful, shading green; colorful dragonflies dancing over the water and an occasional banana delighting the researcher’s heart.

The dragonflies were still dancing.

But their colors were competing with oil puddles and plentiful litter that was stuck on the stones of the river. The foliage of the trees has thinned out. Nowadays it barely provides shade.

Luckily, the bananas are still there. And Panama disease!  (The latter being only good for us.)

Researcher's Delight: A banana plant with Panama Disease on a forest slope.

Researcher’s Delight: A banana plant with Panama Disease on a forest slope.

River running through the forest - some dirt stuck between the stones.

River running through the forest – some dirt stuck between the stones.

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