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New Internet Resource on Indonesia Forest Fires Available

Nairobi, 28 October 1997 - Forest fires continue to burn in Indonesia. They have spread smoke over much of South-East Asia for weeks, causing widespread health alarms and ecological disaster.

As part of its continuing effort to provide scientifically credible and timely information on the extent of the problem, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has requested the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) to make available on the Internet materials that highlight the potential impacts of the fires on the biodiversity of the region - one of the richest in the world.

The address for this site is
http://www.wcmc.org.uk/latenews/

According to WCMC, the fires in Indonesia are now threatening at least 19 protected areas, all internationally important, including a World Heritage site (Ujung Kulon in Java), Ramsar Wetland (Berbak in Sumatra) and Biosphere Reserve (Tanjung Puting in Kalimantan).

The fauna of Indonesia is considered at particular risk as the country is home to more than 100 threatened animal species including the highest number of threatened mammals and the second highest number of threatened birds of any country in the world.

The region is also notable for the wide variety of its plant life and 500 tree species were considered under threat of extinction even before the current fire tragedy. Unique forest ecosystems such as heath forest and peat-swamp forest are particularly vulnerable to fire, which destroys their fragile soils.

In September, UNEP made available on the Internet a series of satellite images that show the growing spread of the smoke throughout the region's atmosphere. These images can be viewed at
http://grid2.cr.usgs.gov/indofire/start.html

UNEP will continue to monitor developments in the region. The Organization maintains close contact with the joint UNEP/Department of Humanitarian Affairs Environment Unit in Geneva, and earlier this month sent a staff member to Indonesia for consultation with the UN Resident Coordinator in Jakarta, the UN Disaster Assessment Coordination Team and the relevant Indonesian authorities.

The contents of the WCMC Internet/Web site include:

Locations of Fires
Map of the whole region with point data for the sites of fires; colour coded to show dates of the start of the fire. The map also shows protected areas of the region highlighting those affected by fires.

Natural Ecosystems
Table of the original and current extent of ecosystems together with a map to show forests of Borneo and Sumatra.

Biodiversity
Lists of endemic and threatened birds, mammals and trees of the region, with descriptions of a number of the threatened mammals.

Protected Areas
The list of protected areas affected by fire includes details of the status of the fires and action being taken.

Published Material
An extensive bibliography of published material on fires in the natural environment, their effect on biodiversity and regeneration of forest after fire.

Other Internet Sites
Hypertext links to more than 50 other Internet sites with information about the fires of South East Asia.

WCMC will update this site as new information becomes available.

For more information on the WCMC Web Site, contact:

Jo Taylor,
Information Officer,
World Conservation Monitoring Centre
219 Huntingdon Road ,
Cambridge, CB3 0DL, UK
Tel: +44 1223 277314, Fax: +44 1223 277136,
email: Info@wcmc.org.uk

For more information on the UNEP site, contact:

Dr Ashbindu Singh,
Regional Coordinator,
UNEP Environment Information and Assessment
North America EROS Data Center,
GRID-Sioux Falls,
SD 57198, USA.
Tel: +1-605-594-6107/6117, Fax: +1-605-594-6119,
Email: singh@edcmail.cr.usgs.gov,
http://grid2.cr.usgs.gov

Information Note 1997/31

UNEP News Release 1997/65

Monday 03 Nov 1997
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