Why do this?
Perhaps the most common question I'm asked about the 'Trekking for Tropical Conifers' project (along with 'are you serious?') is why I would want to do this trip. Certainly I've spent almost a year planning and many years saving money to go to jungles that many would consider uncomfortable and forbidding, for a project from which I expect to recieve no compensation or recognition. Aside from a the obvious desire for adventure and to see these remarkable trees in their native habitat, I hope that I can make this pilgrimage into something that will benefit conservation efforts for these areas.
While the Agathis and Araucaria of SE Asia have historically had some protection from logging and habitat loss due to their remote locations, this is likely to change as lowland timber supplies dry up. Already these species are being increasingly impacted by humans, and this trend is very likely to increase in the future. Therefore, if one is curious about what the biggest trees and the best forests of these species look like, the time is now to find out. The picture is likely to be very different in 10 years.
Of course, most people are interested in the tropical forests as habitat for showy species such as tigers and orangutans. While I certainly share their fascination with these creatures, trees are really what interests me and these trees are (to me) some of the most interesting inhabitants of the region. I hope that by sharing this journey with you the reader, that you will begin to feel the same way.
With this in mind, I hope that my project can increase the amount of available information, and serve as some vicarious pilgrimage, for all those people who, like me, find trees fascinating in themselves. This, I feel, is the common thread with our other Ascending the Giants projects; to encourage people to see trees (particularly in primary forests) as beautiful, remarkable organisms having inherent value, more than just their value as timber, wildlife habitat, or carbon storage.
It's worth stating again that this project is not intended to consist of a single trip, but rather an ongoing effort which will eventually entail several trips. To this end I am spending a large part of this trip learning to speak bahasa Indonesia, the national language of Indonesia. With the end of this trip I'll be arrainging public presentations about the project and its findings and planning for the next trip. One goal is within the next few years to bring the whole Ascending the Giants crew to Southeast Asia to get some of the first canopy level documentation from these tropical conifer forests.