Status of Peatland Degradation and Development in Sumatra and Kalimantan
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Peatlands cover around 13 Mha in Sumatra and Kalimantan, Indonesia. Human activities have rapidly increased in the peatland ecosystems during the last two decades, invariably degrading them and making them vulnerable to fires. This causes high carbon emissions that contribute to global climate change. For this article, we used 94 high resolution (10–20 m) satellite images to map the status of peatland degradation and development in Sumatra and Kalimantan using visual image interpretation. The results reveal that less than 4% of the peatland areas remain covered by pristine peatswamp forests (PSFs), while 37% are covered by PSFs with varying degree of degradation. Furthermore, over 20% is considered to be unmanaged degraded landscape, occupied by ferns, shrubs and secondary growth. This alarming extent of degradation makes peatlands vulnerable to accelerated peat decomposition and catastrophic fire episodes that will have global consequences. With on-going degradation and development the existence of the entire tropical peatland ecosystem in this region is in great danger.
KeywordsTropical peatland Peatland degradation Southeast Asia Indonesia
The authors acknowledge financial support from the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) of Singapore for the Centre of Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing (CRISP) where this study was conducted.
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