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Land cover changes reduce net primary production in tropical coastal peatlands of West Kalimantan, Indonesia


Tropical peat swamp forests are carbon-rich ecosystems that have been threatened by high rates of land use change (LUC). Despite the ecosystem’s shifts from sequestering carbon (C) to emitting carbon, few studies have quantified the changes in ecosystem productivity associated with LUC in tropical peatlands. This study quantified net primary production (NPP) in intact peat swamp forests (PSF), logged forests (LPSF), early seral sites (ES), and smallholder oil palm plantations (OP) in a peat dome of West Kalimantan, Indonesia. All sites were dominated by peat forest prior to deforestation. The NPP of intact forests was 13.2 Mg C ha−1 year−1 making it among the world’s most productive terrestrial ecosystems, exceeding that of many tropical rainforests and similar to the most productive mangrove ecosystems (12.9 Mg C ha−1 year−1). Land cover change resulted in large shifts in NPP. Logged forest and early seral sites were < 11.1 Mg C ha−1 year−1. The NPP of oil palm plantations was 3.7 Mg C ha−1 year−1. Aboveground NPP was recorded at 10.5 Mg C ha−1 year−1 in forests, exceeding the NPP of LPSF, ES, and OP (8.9, 5.1, and 3.5 Mg C ha−1 year−1, respectively). Early seral sites (5.7 Mg C ha−1 year−1) were estimated to have the highest belowground NPP (p = 0.05). Root productivity in PSF, LPSF, and OP was 2.7, 2.1, and 0.2 Mg C ha−1 year−1, respectively. Land use change and forest degradation have reduced the productivity of tropical peatlands.

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We wish to thank Randi Ade Chandra, Samsudin, and the community of Sungai Pelang village for their assistance in the field, as well as Yudi Almanggari, M. Agus Salim, Rahayu Subekti, Beni Okarda, Sigit D. Sasmito, Meli F. Saragih, and Erwin Tumengkol for their advice on spatial and statistical data. We also wish to thank Flora Fauna Indonesia, the United State Agency International Development - Indonesia Forest and Climate Support (USAID - IFAC), Yayasan Palung, and International Animal Rescue for their collaboration during the field research. We are grateful for the work of Dr. Iswandi Anas and Mrs. Asih Karyati of Bogor Agricultural University’s Biotechnology Laboratory, who conducted the carbon analysis. This paper is based on a PhD dissertation submitted to the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University. This study was made possible through funding provided by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and USAID’s Kalimantan Wetland and Climate Change Studies.

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Basuki, I., Kauffman, J.B., Peterson, J. et al. Land cover changes reduce net primary production in tropical coastal peatlands of West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Change 24, 557–573 (2019).

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  • Land use changes
  • Forest degradation
  • Tropical peat swamp forests
  • Oil palm plantation
  • NPP