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Scientific exploration
in Papuan karsts

For two months, the Franco-Indonesian expedition Lengguru 2014 explored the heart of the forest of West Papua (Indonesia). More than 70 scientists recorded plant and animal speciesliving on one of the most beautiful and wildest karst formations on our planet. A team of cavers accompanied the scientists on their underground explorations.

NOVEMBER 2014

Expédition Lengguru, au cœur de la forêt de Papouasie Occidentale - ©Jean-Marc Porte

The Lengguru region, is characterized by alternating mountain folds and isolated deep valleys. It is a little known "biodiversity hotspot", which is of great scientific interest. For millions of years, the Papua karst formations have evolved as a result of complex tectonic movements. These regions which are often unexplored because of difficult access, are important reservoirs of biodiversity and home to many endemic species.

Conducted by the Research Institute for Development, the Indonesian Institute of Sciences and the Academy of Sorong Fisheries, the aim of the expedition was to better understand the adaptation process of animals living in these unique ecosystems.

Expédition Lengguru, rivières et cascades, ©Jean-Marc Porte
The karstologists walk alongside the waterfalls in the mountains of Kumawa.

A base camp set up in the small village of Lobo, in Triton Bay, was the first starting point for the scientists. After paddling up the Lengguru river in dugouts, the scientists explored the area, later joining the underground river passage at the other end of the range, thereby acquiring a better understanding of the hydrological system. The ichthyologists (fish specialists) were delighted with the collection of a rare species of rainbow fish.

Expédition Lengguru, spéléologie, ©Guilhem Maistre
Scientific exploration requires caving skills to access underground rivers and caves.

Expédition Lengguru, roussettes en vol, ©Bruno Granouillac
These bats, often called flying foxes, are fruit bats. They can have wingspans in excess of one meter.

In the Kumawa range, the botanists made an inventory of rare orchids and other plants. By the end of the expedition, hundreds of specimens had been collected, ranging from 100 meters below the sea, to 1,400 meters above sea level.These specimens attest to the exceptional biodiversity of the Papoua karst ecosystems. The scientists hope to identify nearly fifty new species after DNA analysis.

Expedition Lengguru, Vincent Droissart, spécialiste des orchidées - ©Bruno Granouillac
Vincent Droissart, an orchid specialist, has collected some orchids from the forest's floor and some from the tops of trees.

Lengurru 2014 forms part of a longterm research program started in 2010. New expeditions focusing on ornithology, marine science and archeology are planned for 2016.

Uploaded  in June 2015


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