Rebuilding a house of cards: Restoring the equilibrium in Indonesia’s tropical peatlands

Laura Graham

Publication Date:

Indonesia’s extensive tropical peatland domes contain a globally critical reservoir of carbon. Their forests have become a final refuge to endangered mammals such orangutans, sun bears and clouded leopards, and provide livelihoods, environmental stability and spiritual-identity to indigenous communities. These tropical peatlands have become severely and extensively degraded through logging and land conversion for agriculture, both requiring peatland drainage. The degraded peatlands now burn with almost annual frequency. When surface fires transition into the peat, they release toxic gases, large volumes of small particulates, and huge volumes of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere – the Asian Haze Crisis. The Indonesian Government is working to rehabilitate its peatlands, but planted seedlings still die through continued fires and disturbed hydrology. Fire management efforts are often only short-term, and rewetting after drainage is extremely expensive and physically challenging. Local indigenous communities have a deep understanding of the ecology of the system, and want it to see it restored. Poor economic, livelihood, health and education options, and unclear land tenure, however, leave them feeling incapacitated. Tropical peatlands are an ecosystem dependent on stability and equilibriums. When these are disturbed, the whole system becomes degraded, questionably past its tipping point. Restoring the balance of this equilibrium requires understanding and methods in the biophysical, social, economic and politic environment. In this webinar I will present the balance of these different factors from a case-study perspective of single peat dome: its degradation history, and the restoration efforts of my organisation, The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, BOSF-Mawas Program. I propose that implementing truly inter-disciplinary restoration for Indonesia’s peatlands is rather like building a house of cards. Speaker – Laura Graham, BOSF-Mawas

Resource Type:

Pre-approved for CECs under SER's CERP program