A brand new oak species has been described from the forests of northern Sumatra, the primary of its type discovered on the island in additional than 10 years.The two lone bushes are situated within the distant Batang Toru forest, the one identified habitat of the critically endangered Tapanuli orangutan, which was itself solely described in 2017.The new oak’s acorns appear to be an necessary a part of the orangutans’ weight loss plan, however ongoing habitat destruction means this tree can be prone to be critically endangered.Urgent conservation motion is required to save lots of the remaining Batang Toru forest and set up cultivated populations of the uncommon oak to forestall its extinction, researchers say.
A brand new species of oak tree has been described from deep within the forests of northern Sumatra and seems to be an necessary supply of meals for the Tapanuli orangutan, the world’s most threatened nice ape.
Named Lithocarpus tapanuliensis, the tree species is the primary new oak recognized on the island in additional than a decade, and was described from two lone specimens discovered by researchers within the distant Pilar Forest, a part of the extremely biodiverse Batang Toru ecosystem. This specialised habitat is dwelling to an abundance of uncommon vegetation and animals, together with the Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis), a critically endangered species that was itself solely described scientifically in 2017.
An orangutan nest noticed close by the brand new oak species. Image courtesy of Try Surya Harapan.
During a vegetation survey in February 2023, Try Surya Harapan, an Indonesian Ph.D. scholar at Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden in China, observed clues that the brand new oak species could present a significant useful resource for the Tapanuli orangutans.
“I used to be strolling within the forest and observed an orangutan’s nest,” stated Try, who describes the nest as a “thick cozy mattress with many leaves and branches.” Not removed from the nest, he discovered fruit stays on the forest ground. “Some fruits have been utterly eaten and others have been simply partially eaten. The chew marks appeared from rodents and primates. I used to be very excited taking a look at these fruits after I observed some ‘bizarre’-looking acorns … From that day, I suspected the acorns belonged to a brand new locality and even to a yet-to-be-described species.”
Orangutans depend on tropical oaks and associated species for meals and nesting supplies. The constant yearly fruiting of those oaks makes them a significant fallback meals supply when different assets are scarce.
The distinctive cup-like growths surrounding the acorns of L. tapanuliensis distinguish them from different regional oak varieties. Further evaluation additionally revealed the acorns secrete a particular resin when dried. Despite in depth surveying, solely the 2 particular person bushes have been situated up to now.
Fruits of the brand new oak species, Lithocarpus tapanuliensis. Image courtesy of Try Surya Harapan.
Researchers establish the brand new oak species within the forest. Only two particular person bushes have been discovered. Image courtesy of Try Surya Harapan.
“The species has been assessed as critically endangered because of its tiny inhabitants and vary dimension,” Try stated. “The Batang Toru ecosystem suffers from habitat fragmentation and habitat loss because of large-scale infrastructure tasks, corresponding to mining, agroforestry plantations, and hydropower within the surrounding forest.” Recent improvement tasks have additional disrupted the realm.
Compared to neighboring islands, Sumatra’s plant range stays poorly documented and is assumed to be not as wealthy as Borneo’s, dwelling to a different species of orangutan. But Try stated he believes many unknown species like L. tapanuliensis are but to be uncovered via devoted exploration throughout Sumatra’s forests.
A map of the research web site courtesy of Try Surya Harapan.
“This discovery highlights how Indonesia’s rainforests seemingly harbor much more biodiversity than presently identified. Finding this uncommon oak tree reveals we should survey threatened habitats earlier than they’re completely misplaced,” he stated.
To defend this new oak species and the orangutans, we have to save the remaining forest in Batang Toru, he added. He additionally really helpful rising a few of these uncommon bushes outdoors the forest, in locations like botanical gardens. Using each strategies collectively provides the species a greater probability at long-term survival.
Without pressing motion, extinction of the newly discovered oak looms. “We should act shortly to preserve this oak tree and its habitat. Protecting uncommon species like L. tapanuliensis means defending Sumatra’s irreplaceable native biodiversity.”
Banner picture of an grownup feminine, Pongo tapanuliensis by Tim Laman Batang Toru Forest Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Project North Sumatran Province (CC BY 4.0).
Liz Kimbrough is a employees author for Mongabay and holds a Ph.D. in ecology and evolutionary biology from Tulane University, the place she studied the microbiomes of bushes. View extra of her reporting right here.
Harapan, T. S., Tan, W. H., Febriamansyah, T. A., Nurainas, Syamsuardi, & Strijk, J. S. (2023). Lithocarpus tapanuliensis (Fagaceae), a brand new stone oak from northern Sumatra and its position as an necessary useful resource for critically endangered orangutans. PhytoKeys, 234, 167-179. doi:10.3897/phytokeys.234.106015
FEEDBACK: Use this kind to ship a message on to the writer of this put up. If you wish to put up a public remark, you are able to do that on the backside of the web page.
Biodiversity, Conservation, Critically Endangered Species, Deforestation, Endangered Species, Environment, Forests, Great Apes, Green, Happy-upbeat Environmental, Mammals, New Species, Orangutans, Rainforest Destruction, Rainforests, Tropical Forests
Indonesia, North Sumatra, Sumatra