Research programme

The stake: to understand the biological opulence of Lengguru

The South-East Asia karsts are considered as “islands within the islands” because they host an often significant part of the regional biodiversity. These high levels of diversity and endemism, which are typical of karst systems, can be explained by an outstanding palette of ecosystems, very fragmented terrains, contrasting local climate conditions, various levels of isolation and an often ancient geographical history going back several million years. The karsts cover nearly 10% of the immerged surface of South-East Asia, and they still are the less studied environments. They only represented 1% of the scientific publications reporting on the terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems studies between 1985 and 2004.

There is no zoological or botanical data available about Lengguru, although the region is the size of Sardinia. Only a few peripheral areas were visited, in particular by the Australian ichthyologist G. Allen, who was the first to describe a few fish species.

The geological history of the Lengguru massif, of which we are today well aware, is an important basis for the understanding of the biological diversification processes responsible for the Lengguru fauna and flora.

Target: tracing the Lengguru species genealogy

The purpose of the Lengguru programme is to study the processes and interactions between geodynamics – biodiversity – human societies within the karst systems of Western Papua.

The general methodology is to implement on-site missions covering a broad spectrum of ecosystems with contrasting characteristics : aquatic versus terrestrial. Surface versus underground, maritime versus continental, open versus fragmented.

The ecosystems studied were selected thanks to the preliminary data collected during the Lengguru 2010 French-Indonesian expedition.

Beyond an inventory of animal and vegetal communities, based notably on Barcodemolecular bar-coding[/glossary] or traditional taxonomy techniques, biologists will be able to establish the phylogenetic relations between the species collected in Lengguru and those originating from peripheral areas.

A federal approach


Extending the archaeological and anthropological researches will allow to pinpoint the role played by the Lengguru massif during the various human migrations between Asia and Australia since the end of the Pleistocene era (2.6 MY – 12,000 years). These researches will also allow to show more accurately the interactions between these societies and the contemporary fauna and flora communities in order to better understand their respective evolutions.

An integrated scientific partnership

The programme is endeavouring to establish a sustainable and responsible partnership betxeen the French and Indonesian founding associations.

This partnership is, in particular, articulated around the determination to expand as much as possible the analysis of biological samples in the Cibinong LIPI zoology and botanical laboratories. subsequently, the molecular barcoding will be carried out within the experimental platform commune to the IRD and the LIPI, a structure purposely dedicated to these type of analysis also located in Cibinong.

Only when the analysis can only be carried out in laboratories abroad, will the genetic material (as extracted DNA) leave the indonesian territory