Regional Environmental Change

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 729–737 | Cite as

Peatland degradation and conversion sequences and interrelations in Sumatra

  • Jukka Miettinen
  • Aljosja Hooijer
  • Jianjun Wang
  • Chenghua Shi
  • Soo Chin Liew
Original Article


In this study, we used over 50 high-resolution satellite images to analyse sequences and interrelations in the progression of peatland degradation and conversion processes in Sumatra, Indonesia. Changes were monitored in three study areas of 2,500–3,500 km2 since the 1970s and examined in conjunction with satellite-based active fire data sets. Forests disturbed by intensive logging were noticed to be intermediate stages towards further degradation. Fires were practically non-existent in nearly pristine peat swamp forests (7 fires/100 km2, 1996–2010), but were highly concentrated in heavily degraded forest areas (140 fires/100 km2) leading to either an extremely degraded landscape or conversion to agriculture. The results highlight the vulnerability of degraded peat swamp forest ecosystems and indicate that most of the remaining forested peatlands in Sumatra are in danger of either being fully converted to agriculture or turning into degraded unmanaged wastelands under current peatland management practices.


Tropical peatland Wetlands Drainage Illegal logging Plantation development 



We would like to thank Dr Nick Mawdsley and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments that greatly improved the manuscript. This study was conducted under the Singapore Delft Water Alliance (SDWA), a research cooperation initiative between the National University of Singapore and Deltares from the Netherlands. The first, fourth and fifth authors acknowledge financial support from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) of Singapore. The third author has been awarded a World Future Foundation PhD Prize in Environmental and Sustainability Research AY2010/2011.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jukka Miettinen
    • 1
  • Aljosja Hooijer
    • 2
  • Jianjun Wang
    • 1
  • Chenghua Shi
    • 1
  • Soo Chin Liew
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing (CRISP)National University of Singapore (NUS)SingaporeSingapore
  2. 2.DeltaresDelftThe Netherlands

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