By Birdlife International, Conservation International, IUCN-The World Conservation Union, Fauna & Flora International, the Nature Conservancy, Wetlands International, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund
Peatlands make up a large proportion of the world’s wetlands. They provide habitat to rare or endangered animals and plants, and are an important source of natural products and water. Peatlands are particularly notable for their capacity to accumulate carbon in long term stores, ameliorating the release of greenhouse gases that affect climate change. They can store 15 times more terrestrial carbon than any forest type (about 550 giga tonnes). One third of this is stored in the Tropics. Globally the amount stored in peatlands is equivalent to 75% of all atmospheric carbon and around 100 years of emissions from fossil fuels. In Indonesia, peatlands are the dominant wetland type. They are equivalent to 50% of global tropical peat, and 5% of the global terrestrial carbon store.
ISSUES, TRENDS & CHANGES
This vital resource is now in great danger. Wildfires, drainage and deforestation are resulting in peatland destruction, contributing massively to atmospheric carbon. Annual carbon emissions in SE Asia over the last 15 years have reached 0.8-1.3 giga tonnes, or 13-26% of global fossil fuel emissions. In Indonesia in 1997, 20% of its peatlands were burnt.
It is believed that international efforts to limit the effects of climate change will be in vain if fires in Indonesian peatlands can’t be prevented. A global programme for the conservation and restoration of peatlands is needed alongside reduction of emissions from fossil fuels. Such investments would also provide benefits for biodiversity conservation, water resources management and people’s livelihoods. In response to this, the project Climate Change, Forests and Peatlands in Indonesia (CCFPI) promotes the sustainable management of peat swamp forests to enhance and maintain their capacity to store carbon whilst improving local livelihoods. This calls for an integrated management approach, where stakeholder involvement is essential in both planning and implementation. The project is therefore a joint effort between Wetlands International, Wildlife Habitat Canada, the Global Environment Centre, Canadian International Development Agency, the Indonesian Ministries of Forest and Environment, and local governments, communities and NGOs.
BENEFITS TO NATURE AND PEOPLE
Nationally, the project aims to strengthen technical capacity to manage peatlands for carbon-related project investment and to enhance the understanding of peatland roles to provide environmental services. Locally, it pilots community-based approaches to peatland management which are supported by:
a) analysis of capacity and needs of local stakeholders;
b) cost-effective livelihood alternatives;
c) scientific studies for measuring carbon stores in project locations.
Thus far, combined micro-credit and conservation actions have shown to effectively support livelihoods as well as to prevent peatlands degradation.