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For peat's sake: Governments urged to promote responsible management of peatlands

A leading University of Leicester environmental expert has brought together international experts in order to safeguard a globally important tract of land.

Dr Sue Page of the Department of Geography met with 200 scientists, politicians, legislators, land managers, representatives of national and local governments, NGOs and community groups, and the private sector from Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and 13 other countries.

The International Symposium on “Carbon-Climate-Human Interactions on Tropical Peatlands” held in Yogyakarta, Indonesia was organised as part of the EU funded CARBOPEAT Project which is being led by Dr Page.

Dr Page said: “The meeting acknowledged that the tropical peatland of the ASEAN region contains a globally important store of terrestrial carbon estimated to be about 60 percent of the total tropical peatland carbon store.

“Inappropriate or poorly managed development of tropical peatlands and fires on them impact on local and regional biodiversity, the natural resource functions of the remaining peat swamp forest, and the livelihoods and health of local people”.

The serious problems facing SE Asia as a result of the ‘haze’ and large increase in greenhouse gas emissions from tropical peatlands, as a consequence of uncontrolled forest and peatland fires in Indonesia, were discussed. Action plans to deal with these problems, using appropriate fire control and restoration measures, water management, and wise-use of tropical peatlands, were formulated to advise regional goverrnments and stakeholders.

The meeting statement adopted at the closing plenary session concluded that there is a need for Indonesia and other ASEAN governments to promote responsible management of their peatlands, based on an “ecosystems” approach, to prevent the increase in greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from them as a result of land use change and fire. “This approach should prioritize the protection of high conservation value peat swamp forests, including semi-pristine and logged-over forests, and the rehabilitation of deforested, degraded peatland areas”.

The statement also identifies the need to encourage investment by all relevant parties, especially the private sector, in the conservation, rehabilitation and restoration of tropical peatland and the “improvement of existing peatland management practices by promoting wise use, including participatory management of this ecosystem in partnership with local communities.”

The symposium statement also recommends that coordination of land-use planning on peatlands should be optimized in order to control fire and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Recommended priority issues that call for urgent action include the active role of forest plantation and commercial management sectors in solving current problems associated with tropical peatlands.

Dr Page added: “Tropical peatlands are carbon-dense ecosystems that are extremely vulnerable to destabilisation through human and climate induced changes. We recommend urgent international action to enable SE Asian countries to implement improved management of their valuable peatland resources”.

Ather Mirza | alfa
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