Peat land in Sebangau National Park in Central Kalimantan Province has degraded, according to Rosenda CH. Kasih, project chief of the World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF) Indonesia-Central Kalimantan, here on Monday.
The Sebangau national park which covers a total area of 568,700 hectares, is facing an ecological threat due to forest exploitation in the past, Kasih said.
The construction of a canal attached to a estuary used to transport logs, has damaged the hydrological function of Sebangau`s peat land.
The canal construction has changed the nature of peat land so that the peat land lost its capability to absorb water in rainy season.
“That`s way peat land has become dry and sensitive to fire and drought,” he said. In 2002, 2005 and 2006, there were large-scale forest and plantation fires in Central Kalimantan due to forest conversion and peat land exploitation.
Peat land rehabilitation has been conducted since 2005 by constructing canal blocking to improve the hydrological function of peat land forest, Kasih said. Indonesia`s fire problem is largely related to burning peat vegetation and peat soils. Indonesia has large peat lands valuable for their forest biodiversity, carbon storage, hydrological functions and fisheries.
These last frontiers are under heavy development and population pressures. Widespread fires are increasingly frequent in peat lands, with about 2.1 million ha burning in the 1997/98 El Nino event and drained peatlands becoming major annual fire flash points.
Peatland fires have larger environmental impacts than dry land fires, generating thick smoke and haze and carbon emissions.
Clearing, draining and setting fire to peat lands emits more than 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide every year – equivalent to 10% of global emissions from fossil fuels, according to Assessment on Peat lands, Biodiversity and Climate Change, the first comprehensive global assessment of the link between peat land degradation and climate change in 2007.
Peat lands are wetland ecosystems that accumulate plant material under saturated conditions to form layers of peat soil up to 20m thick – storing on average 10 times more carbon per hectare than other ecosystems.
Peat lands occur in 180 countries and cover 400 million hectares or 3% of the world`s surface.