Sumba Island is part of the Lesser Sunda Islands which is administratively located in the province of East Nusa Tenggara. Geologically, this 1.1-million-hectare island consists of limestone and a mixture of clay that is less able to hold water. Its geographical position makes the typical Sumba climate in this region dry with rainfall that depends on the monsoon and trade wind systems. The absence of a volcano causes Sumba to lack a source of volcanic fertility, which is reflected in the relatively thin topsoil that is easily eroded by erosion.
In the Central Sumba Landscape (CSL), the elevation ranges from sea level to 950 meter above sea level and is highest at the peak of Wanggameti with an altitude of 1,200 meter above sea level. The mosaic includes coastal ecosystems, savanna grasslands which are dominated by hilly plains that look very dry and even barren in the dry season. Rainy days in a year are limited to a volume of less than 1,500 mm/year.
The dry climate in Sumba and the geophysical conditions that do not support the availability of water are indications of the importance of maintaining watersheds and riparian ecosystems. Of the total 92 watersheds in Sumba, 32 are in the CSL, of which 17 empties into the Sumba Strait and 15 empties into the Indian Ocean. In other words, CSL, which covers 24% of the Sumba Island area, saves 35% of the watershed. This shows the significant proportion and role of this area for water resources management.
Ecosystems that support natural service functions such as forests are very limited, with only about 6% remaining in the 1990s. In fact, primary and secondary dry forest ecosystems are also places where the Sumbanese people carry out various activities such as traditional rituals, hunting wild boars, sources of timber for building houses and trees which are sacred by adherents of traditional Marapu beliefs. The Manupeu Tanah Daru National Park, which is located south of CSL, is one of the expanses that has the largest natural forest cover in Sumba and acts as a carbon sink and reservoir of groundwater for the 31 surrounding villages.
The people of Sumba, traditionally and up to now, are generally farmers-herders; practice farming as well as animal husbandry in their daily lives. Despite the dry climate, agroforestry systems thrive by growing long-lived crops such as coconut, candlenut and cashew nuts on more sloping lands, while flatter areas are dominated by seasonal crops such as maize, rice and cassava. Terrace systems for growing rice on steep slopes are rare, while irrigation systems are not widely used because farmers rely more on rainfed systems.
Sumba is important in terms of global biodiversity. The uniqueness of the ecosystem and the type of wildlife has placed Sumba Island as one of 23 Endemic Bird Areas in Indonesia. The Sumba Hornbill, Red-naped Fruit-dove and eight other bird species are not found anywhere on earth except Sumba. This island also provides 24 Key Biodiversity Areas.
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