The spectacular flora and fauna of the Sundaland Hotspot are succumbing to the explosive growth of industrial forestry in these islands and to the international animal trade that claims tigers, monkeys, and turtle species for food and medicine in other countries.
Populations of the orangutan, found only in this hotspot, are in dramatic decline. Some of the last refuges of two Southeast Asia rhino species are also found on the islands of Java and Sumatra.
Like many tropical areas, the forests are being cleared for commercial uses. Rubber, oil palm, and pulp production are three of the most detrimental forces facing biodiversity in the Sundaland Hotspot.
†Recorded extinctions since 1500. *Categories I-IV afford higher levels of protection.
|Hotspot Original Extent (km²)
|Hotspot Vegetation Remaining (km²)
|Endemic Plant Species
|Endemic Threatened Birds
|Endemic Threatened Mammals
|Endemic Threatened Amphibians
|Human Population Density (people/km²)
|Area Protected (km²)
|Area Protected (km²) in Categories I-IV*
The Sundaland hotspot covers the western half of the Indo-Malayan archipelago, an arc of some 17,000 equatorial islands, and is dominated by two of the largest islands in the world: Borneo (725,000 km²) and Sumatra (427,300 km²). More than a million years ago, the islands of Sundaland were connected to mainland Asia. As sea levels changed during the Pleistocene, this connection periodically disappeared, eventually leading to the current isolation of the islands. The topography of the hotspot ranges from the hilly and mountainous regions of Sumatra and Borneo, where Mt. Kinabalu rises to 4,101 meters, to the fertile volcanic soils of Java and Bali, the former dominated by 23 active volcanoes. Granite and limestone mountains rising to 2,189 meters are the backbone of the Malay Peninsula.
Politically, Sundaland covers a small portion of southern Thailand (provinces of Pattani, Yala, and Narathiwat); nearly all of Malaysia (nearly all of Peninsular Malaysia and the East Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah in northern Borneo); Singapore at the tip of the Malay Peninsula; all of Brunei Darussalam; and all of the western half of the megadiversity country of Indonesia, including Kalimantan (the Indonesian portion of Borneo, Sumatra, Java, and Bali). The Nicobar Islands, which are under Indian jurisdiction, are also included.
Sundaland is bordered by three hotspots. The boundary between the Sundaland Hotspot and the Indo-Burma Hotspot to the northwest is here taken as the Kangar-Pattani Line, which crosses the Thailand-Malaysia border. Wallacea lies immediately to the east of the Sundaland Hotspot, separated by the famous Wallace's Line, while the 7,100 islands of the Philippines Hotspot lie immediately to the northeast.
Lowland rainforests are dominated by the towering trees of the family Dipterocarpaceae. Sandy and rocky coastlines harbor stands of beach forest, while muddy shores are lined with mangrove forests, replaced inland by large peat swamp forests. In some places, ancient uplifted coral reefs support specialized forests tolerant of the high levels of calcium and magnesium in these soils. Infertile tertiary sandstone ridges support heath forest. Higher elevations boast montane forests thick with moss, lichens, and orchids, while further up, scrubby subalpine forests are dominated by rhododendrons. At the very tops of the highest mountain peaks, the land is mostly rocky and without much vegetation.