For Peat's Sake

Do sequestered peat reserves hold the secret to climate chaos?

For Peat’s Sake

life in peatlands peat swamp destroyed by fire Kalimantan Borneo


I just climbed off nearly four-days of travel in getting back from West Kalimantan Borneo and, maybe blame it on jetlag, my mental wanderings keep being interrupted by, not orang-utans, but peatland. The past few months my life has been dominated by one word – peat. Honestly, peat, or peatlands, or peat swamps, is not something most of my life I have given much notice to. No, let me amend that – zero notice to. Yet, with the recent fires in Indonesia, and the prospect of more 2016, peat swamps and drained peatlands have become central to my concern for survival of orang-utans in the wild as well as the rest of the rich biodiversity of lowland tropical Kalimantan Borneo.

While I prepare a more thorough posting on peat, I wanted to share this thought as COP21 spends forward and we try to make real-world connections for our need to wrestle control the juggernaut we’ve created called anthropogenic climate change:

“Indonesia’s tropical forests are one of the world’s three major “lungs,” along with the Amazon and Congo river basins, sucking up vast amounts of carbon and emitting oxygen. The Indonesian forests also support immense biodiversity — 10 percent of the world’s known plant species, 12 percent of mammal species, and 17 percent of all known bird species can be found on the archipelago. This biodiversity is exhibited in beautiful ways. For example, Sumatra is the only place on the planet where rhinos, tigers, elephants, and orangutans all live alongside each other.

Critical to this rich landscape are Indonesia’s peatland swamp forests, which form in moist soil that prevents organic material from fully decomposing. These peat bogs and swaps, though less biodiverse than other tropical forests, contain some of the densest carbon stock in the world. They are a critical component of the natural carbon sink in Southeast Asian forests and regulate climate globally.”[1]


Notes & Sources

“Very encouraging.” That’s how Per Fredrik Pharo, Director of Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative describes Indonesia’s peatland (mis)management



2015-2016 Global research and reporting on great apes made possible in part through the generous financial support of the Philadelphia Zoo



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