Reforest Cleared Peatlands

The recent IPCC report warned that South East Asia will be the most immediately impacted by climate change, particularly the Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. Indonesia needs to take swift mitigation action. Among the top five greenhouse gas emitting countries, Indonesia can substantially contribute to slowing climate change. Indonesia’s extensive coastline makes it highly susceptible to rising sea levels, threatening 80% of its population. Islands are particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events; cities have little land to buffet storms. The land that separates population centers from extreme climatic events continues to be poorly managed, particularly through the clearing of forests. Forests and mangroves in particular reduce storm surge and reduce inundation.

The conversion of carbon rich peat to agriculture, prevents continued buildup of peat – in other words, the continued sinking of atmospheric carbon – and exposes the peat thereby resulting in blazes which released 1.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide in the summer of 2015 in Indonesia. In Kalimantan alone, 1.5 million hectares of forest are destroyed each year.

Indonesia’s peatland restoration agency and the moratorium on new agricultural concession licenses and clearing of peatlands are the most important mitigation policies of the Indonesian government. Based on the BRG’s own reporting on hotspot reduction and large irrigation infrastructure to rewet peatland, Climate Scorecard can applaud peatland management in Indonesia. Indonesia must now actively work to restore mangroves and forests on rewetted land. BRG’s current projects only prevent emissions. The reintroduction of vegetation through paludiculture should take into account how this form of agriculture could begin to sink carbon.

Activity Rating: ** Standing Still

Peatlands act as sinks and stores of carbon at different times. It takes hundreds or thousands of years for a peatland to begin to sink carbon. Even an older peatland can at times store CO2 while emitting methane. The characteristics of tropical peatland that are conducive to sinking carbon need to be better understood. The International Tropical Peatland Center recently established in Bogor should further study how Indonesian peatlands that have been cleared can be reforested and begin to act as carbon sinks. Restoring mangroves and forests on peatlands will require targeted, expensive efforts. The benefits of these forests and mangroves will be felt through the ecosystem services they provide once these ecosystems have been re-established. As an investment in mitigating and reversing climate change, this restoration effort will not pay off for many years. However, at large scales, these efforts could make a major difference in preventing the 1.5 degree Celsius rise in temperature. The KLHK and BRG should work to regrow mangroves and forests on cleared peatlands.

Take Action:

Urge the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia and the International Tropical Peatland Center to study the conditions that allow peatlands to sink atmospheric carbon.

Please send the following message to the Policymakers below:

ITPC must study the conditions which allow peatlands to sink carbon. This work will inform peatland ecosystem restoration efforts. Restoring mangroves and forests on cleared peatlands on a large scale could majorly contribute to climate change mitigation in years to come. More immediately, these restored ecosystems would prevent fires more permanently than simply rewetting and provide necessary ecosystem services, such as buffeting storms and flooding. Peat topography, water table level, irrigation, hydrology, seed dispersal and germination (seedling survival), seed sourcing, soil quality, invasive ferns and shrubs, and fire management are just some of the areas that need to be better understood in order to develop mangrove development and reforestation on cleared peatlands. ITPC needs to address challenges such as the loss in soil fertility from the absence of forest canopy litter which decreases restoration seedling survival. Techniques need to be developed to promote seedling growth in cleared areas where they are exposed to higher temperatures and generally harsher conditions. This work will serve Indonesia’s efforts to rewet drained peatlands to prevent further GHG emissions. Further, it will develop steps to restore the ecosystems that sink carbon. Reestablishing mangroves and forests under the conditions which allow them to sink atmospheric carbon would help prevent the 1.5 degrees Celsius rise.

Contact:

Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia
Manggala Wanabakti Building Jalan Jenderal Gatot Subroto,
Jakarta-Indonesia 10270
Phone: 021-57903068 ext 373
AND
Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR)
Bogor Barat Phone: 62-251-8622-622
Email: cifor@cgiar.org

For more information contact Climate Scorecard Indonesia Country Manager Tristan Grupp: Tristan@climatescorecard.org
Background on tropical peatland restoration issues: https://blogs.helsinki.fi/jyjauhia/peat-in-agriculture-and-forestry/tropical-peat-restoration/

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