The highest mountains in South-East Asia are in the Sudirman range of Indonesian New Guinea; the highest is Mt Jaya which rises to 4 884 m and is still partly glaciated. The geological history of the region has left it rich in mineral deposits and the alpine area is currently being mined for copper. In 1997 a project was initiated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in conjunction with the mining companies Rio Tinto and PT-Freeport Indonesia, to study the region’s flora. An introduction to the region, including geology, glaciation and past exploration will be given, as well as the history and objectives of the Kew project. During the project, Kew made several collaborative expeditions to the area, as well as a database of all historical collections from Mt Jaya. Collection patterns for different habitats have been analysed and show that the alpine areas have been adequately collected, but montane areas are still under-collected. A summary of the recently published floristic treatment of the c. 750 species found above 3 000 m, including many endemics, is presented, and the fern and fern allies are discussed in greater detail. The flora of Mt Jaya, as well as other tropical alpine floras, is under threat from mining activities and climate change, and these will be briefly discussed.

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Blumea: Biodiversity, Evolution and Biogeography of Plants

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Naturalis journals & series

Utteridge, T. M. A., & Edwards, P. J. (2009). The subalpine and alpine flora of Mount Jaya (New Guinea): status and threats. Blumea: Biodiversity, Evolution and Biogeography of Plants, 54(1/3), 280–286.