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Indonesia Harnessing Tech for Biodiversity Preservation

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Indonesia, renowned for its vast biodiversity, especially within its lowland forests, spans an archipelago of roughly 17,000 islands, with about 990 permanently settled. It encompasses seven major biogeographic regions and is distinguished by having two of the world’s 25 biodiversity “hotspots,” 18 of the World Wildlife Fund’s “Global 200” ecoregions, and 24 of BirdLife International’s “Endemic Bird Areas.”

Image credits: brin.go.id

Despite that, the country confronts substantial obstacles in preserving its natural heritage. Key challenges include deforestation, the transformation of forests into oil palm plantations, fires in forests and lands, mining operations, and illegal activities threatening its ecological balance.

To address these challenges, Indonesia has implemented various conservation measures. Under the directives outlined in Presidential Instruction No. 1 of 2023, the Indonesian government has articulated a clear mandate for multiple ministries and critical institutions, prominently including the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), to place a strong emphasis on the integration of biodiversity conservation within the realm of sustainable development initiatives.

This development was elaborated upon by Ratih Damayanti, the Director of Scientific Collection Management at BRIN, during her participation in the third instalment of the “Laboratorium Sekuensing: Plant Whole Genome Sequencing” webinar series, which was held in an online this April.

During her presentation, Ratih showcased BRIN’s key initiative, the RIIM Strategic Invitation, aimed at uniting top research institutions to foster scientific and technological progress, improve human resources, and gain expertise in essential scientific areas. This initiative is crucial to supporting a central aspect of the nation’s development strategy.

Further, she explained that RIIM’s Strategic Invitation focuses on acquiring data on living and non-living resources over three years. She oversees a collaborative effort involving various stakeholders.

These concerted efforts aim to establish and maintain a detailed and comprehensive database that encapsulates data on Indonesia’s vast biodiversity and geodiversity, thereby serving critical needs in taxonomy, forensics, and sustainable utilisation.

OpenGov Asia’s prior report highlighted BRIN’s conservation efforts leveraging technology, notably employing remote sensing satellites to gather precise data on water quality.

The data obtained from remote sensing allows researchers to conduct extensive and continuous monitoring of water resources and coastal environments. Additionally, remote sensing can be utilised to monitor marine debris. Plastic and other waste materials discharged into the oceans pose severe global challenges. By employing remote sensing technology, researchers can track the movement patterns of marine debris, identify areas at high risk of exposure, and assist in planning effective waste management and cleanup efforts.

Despite that Remote Sensing Satellites, Ratih also highlighted BRIN’s ongoing work on SEKAR, a national database housing various scientific collections like zoological databases, herbariums, and plant collections. She stressed the need to enhance SEKAR with advanced technologies for better analysis and to aid in identifying new species, discovering bioactive compounds, and advancing conservation efforts.

She highlighted the instrumental role of BRIN’s cutting-edge research facilities and infrastructure in this endeavour, including the BRIN Sequencing Centre Laboratory, Micro-CT Scan, Cryo-EM, and Cellomics and High-Content Screening CX7-LZR. These facilities facilitate comprehensive studies on Indonesia’s biodiversity’s whole genome sequencing (WGS) and environmental DNA. These are essential for driving forward research in biodiversity conservation and its sustainable usage.

At the end of her presentation, Ratih elaborated on the critical importance of such data, noting its application in a wide range of research fields, including health, agriculture, and food, mainly through the study of microbial genetic resources like bacteria, archaea, viruses, and fungi, as well as human genetic research focusing on diseases, cancer, and population studies.

“If we can collaborate between the conservation and the technology sectors, we can achieve a more efficient and impactful approach to preserving biodiversity,” she concluded. “This collaborative approach can lead to innovative solutions that comprehensively address conservation challenges, ultimately contributing to the long-term sustainability of our natural resources.”

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