PRELIMINARY STUDY OF THE ECOLOGICAL IMPACT OF FOREST FIRES IN G. MASSIGIT, G. GEDE-PANGRANGO NATIONAL PARK, WEST JAVA.

 

Abdulhadi, Rochadi, A. S. Adhikerana, R. Ubaidillah and N.Suharna

R & D Center for Biology-LIPI, Indonesia

 

 

ABSTRACT

 

Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, is one of the Long-term Ecological Research Site in Indonesia. In the late 1997, the fires have burnt and destroyed nearly 300 ha forest in this park, and G. Masigit was the largest burnt area (250 ha) of nine locations of hot spot recognized. Undergrowth vegetation got the most severe impacts. Almost undergrowth vegetation in various location were totally burnt. However, within three months following burning new seedlings such as Omalanthus populneus, Macaranga, Trema orientalis and Eupatorium  appeared in the forest floor.The number of mycoflora recorded in burnt forest was interestingly increased in post forest fires site.

 Forest fires in G. Masigit had also affected the wild life population and diversity. For example, the number of bird species and the number of soil insects in burnt forest was significantly reduced. The forest fires had also great impact on soil, such as on soil organic contents, bulk density, colour, consistency, permeability and the activity of soil microorganisms.

 

 

INTRODUCTION

        

Gunung Gede Pangrango National Park, is one of the Long-term Ecological Research Site in Indonesia. In the late 1997, the fires have burnt and destroyed nearly 300 ha forest in this park. They were nine locations of hot spot, i.e., Gunung Sela (32 ha) was burnt in September 13 ; G. Pangrango (0.1 ha) burnt in September 22; G. Masigit (250 ha) burnt in September 26; Alun-Alun Suryakencana (11 ha) burnt in October 27; Gegerbentang (one ha) burnt in November 1; Arcamanik (3.5 ha) burnt in November 1; Perum Perhutani (5 ha) burnt in October 13; Bale Kambang ( 5 ha) burnt in  November 1; and Golf course (0.1 ha) burnt in September 29. Six locations located in the core area of the Gede pangrango National Park, and the other three locations i.e., Perum Perhutani, Bale Kambang and Golf Course are in adjacent of park boundary.

It is reported that the cause of forest fires related to the human error, long dry season, strong wind and low humidity. The effects of long dry season were the dryness of undergrowth species dominated by ferns. The dominant species of ferns such as Dryopteris spp, Nephrolepis , Athyrium, Pteris  and Cyclosorus commonly have shallow roots system. Those species therefore more succeptible to the long dry conditions.

Forest fires in late 1997 in G.Gede Pangrango National Park have affected the biodiversity of the reserve. Results of preliminary observation are presented in this paper.

 

IMPACT ON VEGETATION

 

Fire is a natural component of many forest ecosystems, where it plays an important role in ecology. However, in other cases, fire is also destructive and cause alteration to vegetation. Burning in a fire-dependent forest will have little permanent impacts on vegetation. However, burning in forest not adapted to fire can caused long term or permanent changes. At worst, forests can be totally lost and replaced by other vegetation. For example repeated burnings in Kalimantan have created large areas of unproductive alang-alang grassland in place of the original dipterocarp forest.

Based upon the observation in the field shows that not all burnt trees in some locations were killed. It suggests that the impact of forest fires much depend upon the local conditions such as topography, undergrowth vegetation and thickness and dryness of litter falls, temperature and the wind. Therefore the effects of fire on the vegetation are also different.

Undergrowth vegetation got the most severe impacts. Almost undergrowth vegetation in various location were totally burnt. However, within three months following burning new seedlings such as Omalanthus populneus, Macaranga, Trema orientalis and Eupatorium  appeared in the forest floor.  Abdulhadi et al. (1994) reported that those species were found as the component of seed bank in a permanent plot this forest.  Thus, it is believed that those seedlings might be recruited from seed bank or seed rain.

Fires mostly burnt part of root in the soil surface and part of stem (even in some places up to the crown), with the black dark color. Trees with the thick bark usually demonstrated the dark color outside but not across to the stem.

Forest fires have effected on the flora and fauna diversity in the forest. However, it is difficult to measure precisely the impact of fires on flora and fauna.  Despite the impact is distributed widely and unevenly, it is not felt for months or years and the ultimate impact is depend upon a chain of intermediate evens (Schweithelm 1998).

There are many plant species which are not resistant to fires, so the loss of such species cannot be prevented. The importance of long-term permanent plot in assessing of the species loss due to forest fires were shown from the permanent plot of mixed Dipterocarp forest in Wanariset, Samboja and Lempake, Samarinda, East Kalimantan. Mixed Dipterocarp forest  at the Wanariset, which is known as one of the richest tree species of tropical forests (Kartawinata et al. 1981, Whitmore, 1984). After 1983 and 1998 forest fires,  about 90% of 240 tree species in the 1.6 ha research permanent plot died, while in  the same  forest type  at Lempake only about 20% of species (Bratawinata pers.com) were still found alive in the research plot after fires. Yeager (997a) eported that a team who studied in peat swamp forest at Tanjung Putting National Park, Central Kalimantan, found that the average number of tree species declined from 60 per hectare in unburnt areas to fewer than 15 after burning. The total number of trees that survived after burnt is highly correlated with the degree of prior disturbance, and fires in the peat swamp forest can travel below the ground surface killing trees by destroying their root systems.

 The strategy of plant species to exist is not always in the form of mature plant, but  they occur as viable seeds stored in the soil which is well known as seed bank.  The population of seed bank is often much higher than the population of growing plant, although seed bank in a rain forest is relatively lower than other vegetation types such as savana, grassland, slerophyll  forest etc. The occurrence of soil seed bank is well recognized, and it is considered as an important  in initiating of recovery forest following disturbance.

However, soil heating significantly reduced the number of species and seeds that remained viable in the seed bank. Various ecological studies regarding the effects of a brief period of high rain forest soil temperature on the seed bank was dramatic. Hopkins & Graham (1984) found only 50% of the species and seeds were killed at 60°C . In Costa Rica Ewel ( 1981) found  27% of the species and 52% of seeds were killed in a slash burn while Brinkman & Vieira (1971) found that 66% of the seeds in the top of 5 cm surface soils were killed following burning. Even Abdulhadi (1992) reported that 83% of the species and 90% of all seeds were killed by one hour heating at 60°C.

Reductions in the size of seed banks following soil heating indicate the loss of species occur in the seed bank. It may depend on the composition of that seed since survival rate differ from species to species, and it must also depend on the extent to which seed are distributed at different depths in the soil.

Interestingly, a preliminary survey on the impact of forest fires on G. Masigit, G.Gede Pangrango National Park shows increasing number of mycoflora recorded in burnt forest. As shown in Table 4, a total of 18 species of mushroom were recorded in burnt forest G. Masigit, G.Gede Pangrango National Park. Thirteen of 18 mushroom species (72,2%) were found growing in the burnt trees,  and the other five species (27,8%) found in bare and mossy soil. Pholiota carbonaria, Scutelinia trechispora and Flammulina velutipes were noticed as the most common mushroom found in burnt forest , but not found in unburnt forest nearby. In unburnt forest nearby, only 10 species were recorded. Polyporus sp. is the only species found in both burnt and unburnt forest.

The occurrence of above three common species in burnt forest area to some extent allied to the highly carbon content in the burnt area, since the humidity in burnt and burnt forest was relatively the same. The fact, those species were not found in unburnt forest nearby, and Pholiota carbonaria well known as the post fire species. The similar feature was also shown by the soil fungi (Table 5)

 

Table 4. List of mushrooms recorded in burnt forest of G. Masigit, G.Gede Pangrango National Park

 

 

Unburnt

Burnt

Bisporella sp.

Dead trees

Burnt trees

Coprinus sp.

Soil

-

Crepidotussp.

Trees

-

Ganoderma lucidum

Trees

-

Ganoderma sp.

Trees

-

Hygrocibe punicea

Soil

-

Hypoxylon fragiforme

-

Burnt trees

Marasmius sp.

Dead trees

-

Mycena sp.

Soil

-

Polyporus sp.

Trees

Burnt trees

Xylaria sp.

-

Burnt trees

Flammulina velutipes

-

Burnt trees

Phaehelotium subcarneum

-

Soil

Pholiota carbonaria

-

Soil

Scutelinia trechispora

-

Mossy soil

Schizophyllum commun e

-

Burnt trees

Thelephora terrestris

-

Soil

Myxomycetes 1

-

Burnt trees

Myxomycetes 2

-

Burnt trees

Myxomycetes 2

-

Burnt trees

Auricularia auricula

-

Burnt trees

Auricularia sp.

-

Burnt trees

Coprinus picaceus

-

Soil

Coprinus sp.

-

Soil

Daldinia concentrica

-

Burnt trees

Ramaria sp.

Dead trees

-

 

Table 5. List of soil fungi recorded in burnt and unburnt forest of G. Masigit, G.Gede Pangrango National Park.

 

SPECIES

UNBURNT

BURNT

Rhizopus stolonifer

-

**

Trichoderma sp.

-

***

Aspergillus niger

**

*

Monascus ruber

-

*

Mucor sp.

**

*

Penicillium sp.

-

*

Rhizopus sp.

**

*

Trichoderma viride

**

*

Neurospora sitophila

-

**

Acremonium sp.

-

***

Botrytis sp.

-

*

Gliocladium sp.

-

*

Trichoderma koningii

**

-

 

 

IMPACT OF FOREST FIRES ON WILDLIFE

 

As illustrated by many case studies, forest fires can have disastrous impacts on many species of wildlife. It is difficult to document the effects of fires in the tropical rain forest animals, but many case studies showed the disastrous impacts on many wildlife species. Boer (1989) and Yeager (1997b) point out that wildlife may be killed directly by the heat and smoke of fires or may subsequently weaken and die from lack of food and water or habitat loss. Small, slow moving animals are most likely to be killed outright by fires. Animal with very specific food, habitat, shelter, or climate requirements are most at risk during the immediate post-fire period. Individuals of territorial species fleeing to unburned areas often encounter aggression from residents, and may be killed or injured. The lost of key organism (key stone species), such as pollinators, decomposers and fruit trees can significantly affect the recovery of the forest ecosystem (Yeager 1997b). In the months and years after a fire, the changing composition of vegetation and fruits in a recovering forest provide alternate, or even superior food sources for some animals and insects, sometimes leading to dramatic increases in their population after fires, and thereby changing the faunal composition of the forest.

The escaping animals from the habitat by the fire apparently were captured by the villagers and sold in the markets. These conditions appeared because the people experienced the economic crisis that hit Indonesia. Forest fires that drive away the animals from the forest appears had stimulate people to trade wildlife to improve their economic conditions.

Fires in East- and Central Kalimantan had threatened the orangutan existence which  can be eliminated or destroyed from Kalimantan .  Apparently there are no chance for the orangutan  to survive; even there is a presumption that the orangutan will be finished in the next 100 years . About 366 orangutan were returned to nature in Wanariset, and after the fires only 19 orangutan were found. In the meantime Wanariset Rehabilitation Center had received more than 140 orangutan for  being checked-up their health  condition and recovered after fires. While in East Kalimantan  about 120 old orangutan and 60 juveniles were supposed dead from fires. The protected forest of Sungai Wain in East Kalimantan, which was home of 100 rehabilitated orangutan was also damaged by fires. The fate of those orangutan in that forest is not known.

The Kutai  National Park was attacked by great fire, which had a great effect on the life of the flora and fauna in it. About 50.000 ha of 198.000 ha Kutai National Park were burnt down by fires,  whereas this national park was important  habitat of  around 2000 orangutans and a number of orangutan had been driven away from the habitat for looking their food. The life of orangutan group is not stable and the number decreasing compared to those before the fires. The decrease of their juveniles and elder orangutans is about 38% in each group. Two primitive primates, western tarsiers (Tarcius bancanus) and slow loris (Nycticebus coucany) were extremely reduced in number as of 1986.

Kalimantan which is home for at least 600 bird species with unique characteristics and even endemic, will become a life and death battle for various bird species due to loss of their good habitat. As result of the great fires, there will not be any fruits in the near future, and it means there will be food shortage for the birds. Birds are found in weak condition and difficult to breathe because of haze. Birds which have been driven from their habitat become disoriented, flying without any direction, even crashed themselves on the windows of the houses nearby.

The preliminary survey of forest fire impacts in G.Gede Pangrango National Park suggest that fire has indeed reduced species diversity and species richness of forests, although the community evenness did not seem to be affected, and followed a rule of thumb for community evenness of tropical forest bird, i.e. many species with small population and an even distribution of individuals amongst species (Table 6). There were 15 species not-shared by the two forests, of which seven were found in bumt forests but not in unbumt forests, and they were Ictinaetus malayensis, Accipiter gularis, Aerodramus brevirostris, Psaltria exilis, Pteruthius flaviscapis, Cochoa azurea, and Cettia vulcania. Such species as Ictinaetus malayensis, Accipiler gularis, and Aerodramus brevirostris would be difficult to record in unbumt forests since they would be flying over the canopy, and even when perched (i.e. Ictinaetus malayensis and Accipiter gularis) their very existence would be secretive, while Aerodramus brevirostris would prefer open areas for flying and foraging for flying insects.

On the other hand, the other eight species were only found in unbumt forests, i.e. Megalaima corvina, Megalaima armillaris, Pomatorhinus montanus, Pneopyga pursilla, Brachypteryx montana, Orthotomus cuculatus, Ficedula hyperythra, and Lopozosterops javanieus. These species would not be found in open areas such as those in burnt forests because they existence would depend on the abundance of forests vegetation. For example, Megalaima corvina and Megalaima armillaris need tall trees with dense leaves for perching, singing, and foraging which could not be found in burnt forests. While Pomatorhinus montanus, Pneopyga pusilla, Brachypteryx montana, Orthotomus cuculatus, Ficedula hyperythra, and Lopozosterops javanicus need dense ground vegetation or bushes and scrubs for their living activities.

Forest fires in G. Masigit had also affected the population of soil insects. The number of soil insects in burnt forest is significantly reduced (Table 7).

Direct effect of forest fires is estimated to have killed all species of small snake lizards, and  turtles, because of their disability to escape from fires. Amphibian species which are able to jump on trees were also killed. Even iguana species was unable to escape from fires although they can move fast. Crocodiles and  several other species which can live in deep water, such as lake and big  rivers have chances to survive.

Long term effects of forest fires on the existence  of amphibians and reptiles are especially on their damaged  habitat, loss of place to lay eggs, water contamination, and  decrease in food resources .  Forest lizards were completely absent from burned areas of Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park one month after the 1997 fires, indicating that reptile mortality may have been substantial (O’Brien et al 1998). No lizards were found in open burned peat swamp in Central Kalimantan during a rapid WWF Indonesian survey immediately after the 1997 fires, but some snakes were found in nearby areas (Lilley 1998). Three land turtle species known to inhabit the area were not observed in burn and unburn areas. Frogs and tadpoles were still observed in the survey areas.

 

 

IMPACT ON SOIL

         Forest fires were have apparently affected the soil. Based on the early observation on the newly established post forest fires plot indicated that the forest fires changed the soil organic contents, consistency and the activities of soil organisms. The total nitrogen of the was much lower in the burnt soil, in contrast the Natrium content was vice versa. The soil permeability of burnt andisol  soil was very high (107 cm/hour). This kondition was supported by the soil bulk density which less than one, high porosity, and this can be easily creating the land slide in the steepy  study site. During the observation the activities of soil micro organisms such as earth worms, ants  etc., were not shown in the burnt soil.

 

 

ACKNOWLEDGMENT

The preliminary study of the long term impact of forest fires in G. Pangrango National Park was sponsored by the Indonesian MAB –UNESCO Jakarta, to established new permanent plot on post forest fires site in G. Massigit.

      

Table 6 . Community structures of bird in bumt and unbumt forests in G.Gede Pangrango National Park

 

Species

Unburnt

Burnt

Ictinaetus malayensis

Aerodramus brevirostris

Harpactes reinwardtii

Megalaima corvina

Megalaima armillaris

Pericrocotus miniatus

Dicrurus remifer

Psaltria exilis

Parus major

Sitta azurea

Pomatorhinus montanus

Pnoepyga pusilla

Brachypteryx montana

Myophoneus glaucinus

Turdus poliocephalus

Phylloscopus trivirgatus

Orthotomus cuculatus

Cettia vulcania

Ficedula hyperythra

Ficedula westermanni

Culicicapa ceylonesis

Rhipidura phoenicura

Aethopyga eximia

Lopozosterops javanicus

 

The Shannon diversity index

Evenness

Number of species

 

0.00

0.00

1.00

1.00

1.00

22.00

1.00

0.00

15.00

5.00

2.00

1.00

3.00

1.00

1.00

21.00

2.00

0.00

1.00

6.00

15.00

9.00

9.00

2.00

 

1.06

0.81

20

 

2.00

5.00

0.00

0.00

0.00

5.00

1.00

2.00

3.00

12.00

0.00

0.00

0.00

3.00

1.00

23.00

0.00

2.00

0.00

14.00

5.00

2.00

7.00

0.00

 

0.99

0.85

15

 

 

Table 7.  Number of Insect recorded in G. Masigit

 

Faeces

Chiken Meat

 

Unburnt

Burnt

Unburnt

Burnt

Predator

56

34

211

76

Scavenger

67

44

233

63

Phyto-phagus

1

1

0

2

Decomposer

67

12

36

3

Wood-borer

2

2

-

-

Parasitoid

14

3

13

5

Unknown

0

4

0

3

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