3.Global Impact of Tropical Peatland on Carbon and Water Cycle
Mitsuru Osaki, Farhan Helmy, Gen Inoue, Bambang Setiadi, Hidenori Takahashi, Takashi Hirano, Toshihisa Honma, Wataru Takeuchi, Takashi Kohyama, Herwint Simbolon, Akihiko Ito, Hozuma Sekine, Muhammad Evri, and Kazuyo Hirose
Research Faculty of Agriculture, Hokkaido University
Tropical peat (including swamps and forests) found on islands in the Indonesian and Malaysian Archipelagos, the Amazon lowlands and Central Africa comprise some 42 Million ha, and are estimated to store approximately 83.8Gt (1Gt = 1015g) of carbon. Because of their inferior nature, these environments remain undeveloped, possess relatively virgin forests, and are extremely fragile and very liable to disturbance. Much of the recent increased interest in peat globally has resulted from the importance of peatlands as carbon sinks and stores, and their role in carbon cycling between the earth’s surface and the atmosphere. Also as peatlands conserve large amount water, water drainage of peatland for development affect largely on global water cycle.
Much detailed work has been carried out on carbon gas emissions and water statue in tropical peat in Southeast Asia in recent years and is contributing to knowledge of this topic. Throughout many research of tropical peat, the problems that result from development of tropical peat stem mainly from a lack of understanding of the complexities of this unique carbon-water ecosystem and the fragility of the relationship between peat and forest. In its natural state tropical peat is a vast carbon sink and store but once the carbon allocation to the system is discontinued by forest removal and the peat water is drained, the air exposed surface peat oxidizes and loses previously allocated carbon rapidly to the atmosphere, which results in progressive subsidence of the peat surface and contributes to climate change.
The Mega Rice Project in Central Kalimantan disrupted the peat swamp forest ecosystem over an area of at least one million hectares and it became fire prone. Eighty per cent of this landscape burned in 1997 releasing about 0.15 billion tones of carbon to the atmosphere while peat fires throughout Indonesia as a whole liberated 0.87-2.67 billion tones of carbon, equal to 10-30% of the annual global carbon emissions from the burning of fossil fuels. This was a disaster of catastrophic proportions that not only released vast amounts of carbon from the peat store to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, methane and soot but it also affected human health. In addition, it has led to increased flooding of these vast landscapes and downstream habitations in the rainy season, because the peat has lost much of its water absorption and retention properties. There are increasing periods of protracted drought in the dry season because the drainage channels enable water to flow from the peat quicker than in their natural state.
Thus, it is essential that future land use of tropical peat takes fully into account the principles and practices of sustainable development and incorporates the 'wise use' approach. The wise use of peat involves several elements, foremost amongst which is the identification of the benefits and values that they can provide and the adverse environmental and human consequences resulting from their disturbance. Therefore, In July 2007, Indonesian Forest Climate Alliance (IFCA) was formed to prepare Indonesian’s emerging REDD strategies prior to COP13 in Bali to set up Indonesian REDD system and to implement it after 2013. For this reason, most reliable methodologies of “Reference Emission Level” (REL) and “Measuring, Reporting and Verification” (MRV) should be developed based on precise carbon estimation system by using advanced sensors. Therefore, it is an urgent requirement to build carbon estimation system and the wide range of sensor network which is constructed by sensors with the different altitude levels such as satellites, aircrafts, and ground sensors. Also it is required an integration system of data, data analysis, and modeling and simulation. As MRV system must contribute to local society, it is required a system for local society activation by conserving and managing peatland in local area. To achieve these requirements, Tropical Peat Initiative is proposed.