Restorasi Ekosistem Riau (RER) was established in 2013 to protect, restore and manage the deforested and degraded peatland forest areas in Kampar Peninsula and Padang Island, Province of Riau.  RER’s tree nurseries are an essential step to initiating the forest restoration process and bringing them back to life for future generations.

RER nursery
RER's nursery


As part of its restoration efforts, the RER team identifies areas of degraded forest within the RER concessions to determine if these areas are regenerating naturally. In the event that nature needs a helping hand, RER steps in to carry out active regeneration by replanting the areas with tree seedlings grown in RER’s own nurseries.  

These RER nurseries – a vital component of the forest restoration efforts – ensure that there is always available stock of tree seedlings to be planted in locations which require them. Since 2013 RER has planted more than 13,600 seedlings on 72.6 ha of land within RER.

Brad Sanders, RER Head of Operations, said that there are approximately 80 different species of trees in RER’s seven nurseries at present.  

“As of May 2018, there are 42,600 trees in the nurseries, with 9,100 of them being ‘ready-to-plant’,” said Brad. Only species that are native to the Kampar Peninsula peat swamp forest are used, though the abundance of individual tree species depends upon the availability of seedlings or seeds from the forest, he said.


How does a RER nursery work?

RER nurseries were first established in 2013 with the start of the programme itself.

Typically, the RER nursery team begins by identifying planting locations within the forest, and then establishing nursery infrastructure close to the planting sites – all one year before replanting is to take place at the identified locations.

The nursery team looks for and collects tree seedlings and seeds from the forest, transporting them to the nursery where they are established and maintained under shade coverage over a period of six to 12 months.

When the seedlings are ready and competing vegetation has been cleared by hand, the team begins planting. RER then monitors the seedlings’ survival afterwards, removing weeds which interfere with their growth. Seedlings that may die within the first year are also removed and replanted with new ones.

RER seedling
Seedling in the nursery


With such a labour-intensive process, it’s not feasible to cover the entire 150,000 hectares of RER in this way. Fortunately, the vast majority of land does not require such drastic intervention.

A 2015 Fauna & Flora International analysis of 2013 Landsat satellite imagery found that the majority of RER forest cover is dense (19 per cent) to moderate (58 per cent). 21 per cent is sparse and only 1 per cent is open condition.

“Therefore, there still remains forest cover on 99 per cent of the RER area,” said Brad. “For this reason, natural or passive regeneration of the forest is preferred – it’s also less expensive to implement and also found to be more effective than active regeneration techniques,” he explained.

Even so, tens of thousands of seedlings are needed, so collecting them remains a constant process. Not all of the seedlings will survive the nursery, whether due to transfer shock, insects or disease. The team faces the additional challenge that not all plants produce seeds every year, making seed harvests unpredictable.

“When natural seed production occurs, RER actively collects this seed to establish seedlings in the nursery,” said Brad. For example, 2018 is the first year that Meranti Paya (Shorea platycarpa) and Ramin (Gonytylus bancanus) seeds have been found, so the team is actively gathering them. “This is important because these are critically endangered and/or globally threatened trees species,” Brad said.


Future plans

According to Brad, their main goal is to maintain available planting stock in the nurseries of the widest variety of native tree species found in the RER peat swamp forests.

The RER team’s target – in line with government regulations – is to ensure that each hectare is stocked with 500 seedlings, two years after planting has been implemented.

The team takes advantage of seed and seedling availability wherever and whenever it can, harvesting seeds and seedlings from one area, transporting and using them in another if needed. RER’s tree nurseries are just one of the many ways that it’s helping restore this vital ecosystem.