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Enhancing sustainability of forestry practices on peatlands

Peat swamp forests are a unique ecosystem where the forest grows on a thick peat or organic soil layer, formed in waterlogged conditions over thousands of years. Wet and nutrient poor, this environment is nonetheless an important resource which plays an important role in the socio-economy of the region as well as climate change mitigation by storing carbon. It also provides many valuable timber and non-timber forest products while maintaining water resources and biodiversity. Southeast Asia has more than 25 million hectares of peatlands, comprising 60% of global tropical peatland resources.

Peat swamp forests can be harvested on a sustainable basis, generating significant local and national benefits – however in much of the region, heavy levels of extraction have led to degradation of many peatlands. Degradation and conversion of peatlands is a major cause of greenhouse gas  emissions, fires and associated transboundary haze, which has been identified as a major environmental problem in the ASEAN region.

At present, more than 10 million ha of peatland forests have been logged and 1 milion ha of forest plantations have been developed on peatlands in Southeast Asia – especially in Indonesia. Most of the plantations are Acacia crassicarpa plantations, developed for the pulp and paper industry. However, there are also plantations of other species especially Dyera, Melaleuca and also Anthocephalus cadamba. Many plantations and logged over peat swamp forests have faced challenges due to fires, subsidence and poor water management as well as difficulties in rehabilitating degraded areas with indigenous species. Unless peatland forests can be rehabilitated or used sustainably, there will be more pressure to convert remaining areas for agriculture or other uses.

This publication, Enhancing sustainability of forestry practices on peatlands, has been developed based on papers presented at the workshop on “Enhancing Sustainability of Forestry Practices on Peatlands” held from 27-28 June 2012 in Bogor, Indonesia. The workshop was attended by over 100 participants from six countries from federal and state government agencies, NGOs, research institutions and private companies.

The workshop was jointly organised by the ASEAN Secretariat and Global Environment Centre (GEC, as Regional Project Executing Agency of the APFP) in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Indonesia. The workshop was part of the ASEAN Peatland Forests Project (APFP) and SEApeat Project which promotes sustainable management of peatlands in the SEA region, and being supported by IFAD-GEF and European Union, respectively.

The workshop provided an opportunity to share experiences and knowledge on the impact of forest plantations on peatlands and best practices for sustainable forest management on peatlands. It was also used as a platform to gain feedback and ideas to the development of a Regional Guideline for Forestry Practices on Peatlands.

Read the report here: Enhancing sustainability of forestry practices on peatlands