Preserving lowland peat swamp forests and mangroves in Indonesian Borneo

Village communities are saving forests and wetlands that are one of the largest natural carbon stores in the world, as well as protecting and rehabilitating critically endangered orangutans.

Image © Stand For Trees

Image © Stand For Trees

Key facts

  • Only One members fund the reduction of 5,000 tonnes of carbon by helping preserve a 47,000-hectare peat swamp forest on the southern coast of Borneo.

  • The project conserves one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, protects the critically endangered Bornean orangutan, alongside hundreds of other threatened species, and curbs coastal erosion through the planting of more than 55,000 mangrove saplings.

  • The Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve supports the livelihoods and welfare of 14 village communities, providing educational, economic, and environmental benefits to the over 2,500 households within the project area.

  • Through our carbon reduction partner Stand For Trees, the project is certified by the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and has achieved CCB Gold Level status for providing exceptional climate, community, and biodiversity benefits.

How the project works


Stand For Trees identifies a tropical anti-deforestation project demonstrating robust positive impact on biodiversity, local communities, and the climate at a site facing severe logging and environmental degradation.

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The project saves critical ecosystems through sustainable land management and the establishment of a protected reserve, keeping trees standing and soil undisturbed — stopping potent natural reservoirs of carbon from being released into the atmosphere.

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Independent auditors verify successes from the project — from habitat preservation to community development — and evaluate the amount of carbon emissions prevented by conserving the forest, which would otherwise be razed and converted to palm oil plantations.

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Carbon credits are issued from the project and people buy them through Stand For Trees, meaning the project receives funds to the Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve and carries out additional initiatives such as orangutan rehabilitation and agricultural training for community members.

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In harmony with the terrestrial forest conservation, the project administers a mangrove restoration program to safeguard the shore from erosion, creating job opportunities for local stakeholders, especially women, to plant and monitor budding trees.

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Beyond protecting the forest and coastline, the project facilitates community training on water purification, solar electrification, and fire response, as well as supplying a floating health clinic for communities along the Seruyan River.

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Project impact

All projects on Only One help save the ocean and fix the climate, and 100% of our members’ funds go to impact. Keep reading to discover how our “Preserving lowland peat swamp forests and mangroves” project is having a positive effect. Biodiversity and ecosystems

The Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve is located in Indonesia on the island of Borneo — the third largest island on the planet — bounded by the Java Sea to the south, the Seruyan River to the east, and Tanjung Puting National Park to the west. Peatlands, terrestrial wetland ecosystems characterized by the accumulation of partially decomposed vegetation or “peat,” cover the majority of the area. (A handy test to tell the difference: If you’re standing in a marsh and your shoes are getting soaked, but there’s not quite enough water to don a pair of goggles and swim to the nearest Foot Locker, you’re likely in peatlands as opposed to other wetlands!) The waterlogged conditions are the reason behind the buildup of peat, with plants piling up at a rate greater than the amount of time it takes for them to decompose. As a result, despite peatlands making up less than 3% of all global land area, this cumulative addition of organic matter houses more carbon than all of Earth’s forests combined. And, like all wetlands, Rimba Raya’s peat swamp forests act as storm surge sponges (say that five times fast!), moderating the effects of extreme weather events and heavy rainfall.

The project implements a variety of on-the-ground management strategies to conserve native flora and fauna, carrying out regular patrols, preparing for fire danger, enriching forest soil with the addition of locally sourced mulch and seedlings, and planting diversified crops like fruit trees as food stocks for wildlife.

By protecting vibrant ecosystems, Stand For Trees’ project not only preserves biodiversity within the reserve, but also provides a crucial buffer between industrial encroachment — such as converting tropical forests to farmland — and the neighboring national park. Only One members’ support fortifies the boundaries of this vitally important wildlife refuge.

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Endangered species

The lowland peat swamp forests provide habitat for over 120 threatened and endangered mammal species, including the clouded leopard — a slinking, tortoiseshell-colored wild cat no larger than a golden retriever — and the pangolin, a “spiny anteater” resembling an armadillo with artichoke-like scales cascading down its back. The hairy-nosed otter (the name says it all), so endangered it was once considered extinct, is known to go fishing in the Rimba Raya peatlands.

More than 300 species of bird also take flight in the Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve — from the vulnerable blue-headed pitta, an iridescent songbird found only in Borneo, to the storm’s stork, the rarest stork in the world — relying on the peat swamp forest and its diversity of over 180 tree and vegetation species to survive.

Lesser adjutant storks · Stand for Trees

Orangutan protection

Foremost among endangered species residing in the Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve is the critically endangered Bornean orangutan, a charismatic, fire-orange ape native to the forested landscapes of northeast and southwest Indonesian Borneo. The Rimba Raya project is the largest non-government orangutan reserve in the world and one of the few remaining habitats for wild orangutans — in the 21st century alone, the geographic distribution of orangutans has decreased by over 90%.

A combination of hunting and forest loss has decimated all three orangutan species alive today, with only an estimated 54,000 Bornean orangutans left in the wild. Scientists predict that as much as 75% of forest cover in Indonesia will be lost to deforestation without urgent mitigation. Expanding palm oil production is the most significant driver of deforestation in the region, threatening to devastate what little remains of orangutans’ only natural habitat on the island.

Orangutans are being driven to extinction by palm oil, it’s that simple. Palm oil is replacing the forest, forests are being converted into palm oil plantations. Timber, pulp, and paper are also playing a part, but palm oil is by far the biggest driving force for the conversion of the rainforests.
Dr. Biruté Mary Galdikas
Anthropologist, Orangutan Expert, & Conservationist

Climate change is poised to further restrict the habitat available for orangutan populations, with tropical lowland species like the Bornean orangutan predicted to seek refuge away from inhospitably high temperatures along the coast. This is yet another indication that the Rimba Raya project is critical for species recovery — local rehabilitators build feeling stations and treat injuries and ailments, reintroducing treated orangutans back into the reserve.

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Carbon reduction

This project operates within the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD+) framework, a system of verifying carbon emissions reductions and incentivizing climate mitigation via forest protection and community development. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) developed the REDD+ methodology to plan and finance forest management practices that reduce greenhouse gases in climate-vulnerable countries.

By comparing the amount of carbon stored by preserving the forest to an assumed baseline without preservation (the most likely outcome without intervention), Stand For Trees can calculate the carbon emissions reduction of the Rimba Raya project, ultimately stopping 100 million tonnes of carbon from being released into the atmosphere over its 30-year lifetime, validated by the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS). The project additionally employs villagers to coordinate the planting of over 55,000 mangroves, further filtering the peatland water and strengthening the coast against erosion and storm surge. 

Protecting and monitoring the peat swamp forests and other vegetation within the reserve enables on-the-ground organizations to ensure the security of over 47,000 hectares of vital wetlands, with Only One members’ funds making a big difference to a key natural resource.

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Community development

Through Stand For Trees’ project, Only One members are supporting the livelihoods and welfare of 14 village communities, providing educational, economic, and environmental benefits to the over 2,500 households within the project area. 

Supplementary initiatives in collaboration with residents living in and around the Rimba Raya Biodiversity Reserve include:

  • Building three community libraries;

  • Distributing high-efficiency wood stoves that require less fuel and reduce harmful pollution;

  • Supplying a floating health clinic for communities along the Seruyan River and distributing reading glasses;

  • Prioritizing training for women with water purification and solar electrification workshops, along with providing additional employment opportunities and access to health services; 

  • Distributing water filters and village-scale purification systems to reduce risk of waterborne illness;

  • Holding agroforestry training and kickstarting sustainable pineapple plantations;

  • Funding scholarships for high school students;

  • Installing solar generators in villages without electricity.

One of three community libraries · Stand For Trees

Sustainable Development Goals

By supporting the “Preserving lowland peat swamp forests and mangroves in Indonesian Borneo” project, Only One members’ funds go toward all 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

Project reporting

Stand For Trees will send Only One an annual report on how the project is progressing, in addition to tracking our members’ carbon reduction in a bespoke scorecard on their website. They will also include new photos and videos from the field of activities related to forest restoration and orangutan rehabilitation efforts.

You can explore all our project implementation reports in our public Impact Dashboard.

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More about our carbon reduction partner

Stand For Trees reduces people’s climate impact by saving 4.5 million hectares of tropical forest. They fight deforestation at its core, preventing mature, resilient trees from being chopped down. Stand For Trees’ projects make a difference not only to the climate, but also to the wildlife and communities that call forests home. They hold special certifications from the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) and Climate, Community, and Biodiversity (CCB) Standard. Stand For Trees is serious about protecting forests in the most legitimate and effective way possible, only making projects available for the purchase of carbon credits after they show proof of success — just like anything you might buy in a store.

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