JAYAPURA, Indonesia — Paving of a dirt road linking two cities in Indonesia’s easternmost Papua region could spark the destruction of a wildlife reserve whose isolation has made it a biodiversity hotspot. The 585-kilometer (364-mile) road runs from the coastal city of Jayapura, the provincial capital, southwest through the mountainous hinterland to the town of Wamena. It forms part of the Trans-Papua Highway, a web of asphalt cutting thousands of kilometers across the Indonesian half of the island of New Guinea. About a sixth of the Jayapura-Wamena stretch runs through Mamberamo Foja Wildlife Reserve, but has not yet been paved. Spanning nearly 950,000 hectares (2.35 million acres), the reserve covers an area six times the size of London, and has been dubbed a “species generator” due to its diversity of wildlife and vegetation. The reserve has 40 types of ecosystems, including montane rainforests, lowland and hill rainforests, freshwater swamp forests, flooded grasslands and savannas, and mangroves. It’s also home to at least 332 bird species and 80 mammal species, with many more species yet to be described by science. Thirty-nine Indigenous communities also live in the wildlife reserve. The government says the road will open up access to isolated regions, lower the prices of goods, and generally improve the welfare of people living in the mountainous areas. The Trans-Papua Highway plan was first concocted during the regime of former president Suharto in the 1980s. Some sections of the 4,325-km (2,687-mi) network have already been built and paved, with the rest…This article was originally published on Mongabay Läs mer