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  Degradation of Peatlands

 
 Photo credit: Serena Lew/GEC
   
     

Over the past 30 years, peat swamp forests have been increasingly cleared, drained and degraded as a result of unsustainable forestry and agricultural practices. An estimated 13 million ha have been impacted and often degraded by legal and illegal logging activity which often involves drainage of the peat during the extraction process, and over exploitation of forest resources. Although most peatland soil (especially those deeper than 2 m) is marginal to poor for agriculture, 5-7 million ha have been cleared and drained in the region for agriculture and plantation projects - mainly oil palm, pulpwood, rice and various small-scale crops. Many of these agricultural programmes in peat have ended in failure with the most notable example being the so-called Mega-Rice Project in Kalimantan, Indonesia where 1 million ha was cleared and drained for rice cultivation although less than 5% was suitable for this purpose. This scheme and many others were abandoned before they were complete.


 

Status and Values of Peat Swamp Forests
One of the major land types in Southeast Asia is peatlands. In a natural state these occur as peat swamp forests. These wetland forests have developed primarily in the coastal lowland plains in-between major rivers.Read more...

 

     
 

Degradation Due to Drainage and Subsidence
Even without fire, the peatlands of the region degrade rapidly once they are drained with land subsidence of up to 3m as recorded in some parts of the region following unregulated drainage. Read more...

     
 
Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts
All of these various problems have combined to make the degradation of the peat swamp forests of South East Asia into one of the most extensive and important land degradation problems in the world. Read more...
     
 
Responses to the Problems
With increasing recognition of the significance of peatland degradation in the ASEAN region, there has been a growing level of activities at national and regional level. Read more...
     
     
Need for new intervention
To date, efforts in the region to address the increasing problems of peatland fires and associated transboundary haze and greenhouse gas emission have focussed mainly on early warning and firefighting approaches. Read more...