Threats faced by Peatlands in Brunei
All kinds of development on the peatland involve drainage. Draining the peatland in effect bleed the swamps the very medium of its existence. Any drainage programme either on the peatland itself or in the surrounding land carris the risk of over-drainage. Drainage leads to the lowering of water table and the peat will experience water-table fluctuation, which in turn has an immeadiate effect on the peat, particularly on the surface. Desiccated peat will alter the entire water-balance of the peat, and affcet the plant-peat-water relationship. The problem with peat is that even the partial loss of original water-holding capacity cannot be restored by re-wetting.
Experience has shown that even a small alteration in the mean water table has deleterious impact on the natural communities. Such impact inludes change in species composition of the forest with plants that are adapted to drier conditions succeeding those those of the original wetter habitat.
The dry peat surface increases its susceptibility to fir during long rainless periods. This region has witnessed the worst occurance of fires on peat swamp in the last decade culminating in the vast fires of 1997 that ravaged large areas of peatland landscape for several months during the dry season. The inferno during the 1997-98 blaze choked South East Asia with smoke and haze, ravaging million hectares of peatland, threatening the wealth of natural resources, ecological functions and socio-economic structure of settlemet in the region, beside endangering the health of the population. The extend of the damag by the fire in this country has not been determined.
Lack of knowledge
One principal constraint of the managment prescription for peatland development is that "we simply don't know enough". Comprhensive studies of peatlands are still in infantry. Apart from a few examples, many peatland components and functions are still poorly understood and/or poorly quantified as compared to other ecosystems. Available information is inadequateto assess the ecological consequence of developing tropical peatland. There is a lack of understanding of the ecological complexity of this system and failure to comprehend the importance of its natural function.
Partly due to the aforementined lack of knowledge, poor management practices can do more harm than good. There is no special regulation nor technical guideline on th best utilization of peat swamp resources. For example in terms of silvicultural technologies, appropriate methods and techniques that can produce the desired benefit are yet to be developed. Although some reforestation and replanting have been carried out, many of the spcies used are inappropriat and most samplings do not survive.