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​An interdisciplinary study of the peatland fish of Sebangau, Central Kalimantan: Fish diversity and the importance of fish and fishing to local communities

Published on: 25-Jan-2019

Event Type: Seminar

Event Date: 25 January 2019 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm

Venue: ASE 3D Viz Laboratory Room (N2-B1c-16c).

Speaker: Dr. Sara Thornton


About the speaker:

I’m an ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Geography, Geology and the Environment at the University of Leicester (UK) working with the Borneo Nature Foundation (Indonesia). My broad interests are in interdisciplinary approaches to tropical forest conservation, debates surrounding ecosystem services, sustainable development and the role of different knowledges in conservation research and management. I have a passion for tropical peat-swamp forests and have been working around the Sebangau peat-swamp forest (Central Kalimantan, Indonesia) with the Borneo Nature Foundation for almost 8 years. My current work builds on my PhD with a continued focus on fishing livelihoods, sustainable development and peat-swamp forest conservation in Indonesia.


About the event:

The Sebangau tropical peat-swamp forest (TPSF) ecosystem in Indonesian Borneo is a vital habitat for numerous threatened species. TPSFs and their rivers are at high risk from human disturbance, however, making assessments of fish biodiversity and monitoring of water quality a high priority. The degradation of freshwater systems has serious repercussions for biodiversity and the human communities, who depend on the forest and river for their livelihoods, and on fish as a main dietary protein source. In this interdisciplinary project, over 15 months, we completed some of the first in-depth assessments of local fish biodiversity and abundance in the Sebangau catchment. Interviews, focus groups and questionnaires were used in two villages (Kereng Bangkirai and Taruna Jaya) to investigate different values provided by fish and fishing to local communities, as well as their perceptions of environmental change and challenges. The fish surveys resulted in a species list of 55 species from 16 different families, almost all of which are used by local people. River fish catches were negatively correlated with river depth and positively correlated with water turbidity, but not related to dissolved oxygen levels, pH, surface water temperature or nutrient levels. Fish surveys in the river were conducted both before and after the 2015 fires, with results showing increasing river acidity and reduced local fish catches following the fires. Together with the results from the interviews and focus groups, these data form the baseline for future monitoring projects. In the long-term this information and the interdisciplinary approaches that we propose will be vital to improve understanding of these wetland habitats, their importance for community livelihoods, and ultimately to find ways of promoting ecosystem conservation alongside community development.

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