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This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science. However, more recent observations and studies may have rendered some content obsolete.
Kalimantan, the Indonesian portion of Borneo, was once a lush tropical landscape full of some of the most sought-after timber in the world. In recent years, a combination of logging and agriculture has contributed to a rapidly changing landscape.
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When trees are logged, erosion can become a problem. The tropical climate of Southeast Asia means Kalimantan endures seasonal fluxes of monsoon rains and dry seasons. During the dry seasons, ground that once was covered by a canopy of trees is exposed to the sun. The soil dries until dusty sediments sit on top, untethered to the ground. When the dry season ends and the monsoon rains pour down on the land, the sediment gets carried down from the mountains to the Java Sea. In this image, rivers appear to be red, a result of the sediment and soil. Once the sediment spills into the sea, it traces the movement of the currents in waves and swirls.
That flow of sediment is bad news for the palm oil plantations. Many of the nutrients necessary to grow healthy crops are being washed into the sea, leaving behind soil that is less than ideal for sustaining palm oil crops.
Kalimantan was once a lush tropical landscape full of valuable tropical timber. Now forests are gradually being cleared and replaced by palm oil plantations.