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A new conservation project in Sarawak, Malaysia, could provide a working model for preserving biodiversity alongside the South-East Asian timber industry, says this editorial in Nature.

The project embraces three types of land use over an area almost twice the size of Luxembourg — acacia plantations for logging, natural forest for indigenous communities to cut and farm, and a biodiversity conservation zone. Biologists hope all three will play a role in supporting species.

But the project's success depends on proving that there are native species worth saving, and finding ways to protect them. The editorial calls on researchers from around the world to support the project by documenting the area's natural biodiversity.

Simply collecting specimens is not enough, it says. Ecologists and taxonomists must commit to systematic monitoring, to evaluate temporal changes in both the natural forest and plantation areas.

But the editorial concedes that it is inevitable that some species will be lost, as both the Sarawak government and the local people use the forest as a crucial part of their livelihoods.

Link to full article in Nature