Arif Habibal Umam

Palaeoecology of the Leuser Ecosystem in Aceh and the Role of Past Natural and Anthropogenic Disturbances on its Vegetation and Biodiversity


The Leuser ecosystem is located up to 3.400 m above sea level. It is acknowledged as a prominent biodiversity hotspot and its existence is critical to the survival of Sumatran wildlife (Djufri, 2015; Nuribadah, 2012) and home for 10.000 plant species (, 380 bird species, 205 big and small mammals, 96 amphibians, and 24 fishes (TNGL, 2020). These species that co-exist in the ecosystem nonetheless are under threat due to large deforestation and forest degradation. The Leuser Ecosystem, known as Kawasan Ekosistem Leuser (KEL), includes a landscape from the coastal area with peatlands to the mountainous areas in the middle part of Aceh.
Long-term paleoecological studies provide essential information on past vegetation and environmental changes, and the role of natural and anthropogenic disturbances. Studying past ecological conditions helps to understand the current status of the ecosystem and will improve conservation practices due to anticipation of a future shift in the ecosystem (Davies and Bunting, 2010). Paleoecological investigations are also important for peatland development, and reaction to environmental changes (climate, fire, tsunamis, human impact) as it assists feasible targets for restoration and conservation (McCarroll et al., 2017) and by selecting important regenerating plant species for efficient restoration (Hapsari et al., 2018).
The main aims of the Ph.D project are to study the development and dynamics of the Leuser Ecosystem including its biodiversity and carbon storage and the role of past climatic change, natural disturbances such as fires and tsunamis, and human impact to understand the past, present, and future of the ecosystem. This knowledge is important for future conservation as well as the restoration of this important tropical ecosystem.

This PhD research project is funded by BPSDM Aceh in cooperation with DAAD under the special program DAAD – Aceh Scholarship of Excellence (2022-2026).

Ph.D Supervisor:
1. Prof. Dr. Hermann Behling
2. Prof. Dr. Erwin Bergmeier
3. Prof. Dr. Holger Kreft