International Peat Conference – Follow up 2

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Five concurrent sessions with different sub-themes marked the start of the second day of Peat Congress.  In general, various issues relating to peatlands – peatlands carbon flux, agriculture and forest plantation on peatlands, potential market for peatlands material, legislation and regulation on peatlands management and the way forward of peatlands restoration have been presented. Some interesting presentations – ‘no matter whether sustainable or not’ were summarised below:

Title: Enhancing Reforestation in Degraded Tropical Peatlands in Central Kalimantan
by Maija Lampela

A reforestation research was done on the so-called Ex-Mega Rice area in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. The species used were Shorea balangeran, Dyera polyphylla, Alstonia pneumatophora, Dacryodes rostrata andCampnosperma squamatum with three treatments; weeding, mounding and fertilizers. The team reported that the first three species grows well in the study site which was previously clear-felled, open, drained and burnt deep several times.

Title: Managing Peatlands-Regulating Controlled Open Burning in Sarawak
by Peter Sawal

Sarawakians have been given the privilege to convert their peatland into oil palm plantations in order to enhance their livelihoods. However the Sarawak government realized that they are permitting irreversible degradation of the peatlands. Hence, as an initiative to manage open burning is one of the outcomes of plantation development. They have adopted Canadian Fire Danger Rating System in which open burning will be permitted if they met several characteristics listed.

Title: Restoration of Peatlands Ecosystem and Biodiversity in U Minh Region of Mekong
by Le Phat Quoi

The peatlands in Vietnam are mainly distributed in the U Minh region of the Mekong Delta and it includes the Melaleuca forest. In 1962, the peatland area was estimated to be 64, 000 ha but decreased to 9,306 ha in 2010! This tremendous loss was due to the poor management of hydrology. Vietnam then took measures to correct this by implementing better management of fires and water. Since then there have been no forest fires and there is significant ecosystem restoration—reappearance of extinct fauna and flora, which includes 14 animal and 17 plant species which are listed in the IUCN and Vietnam Red Books. The successful restoration has managed to dub one of the peatlands in the U Minh as ASEAN Heritage Park in 2013 and RAMSAR site in 2015.

Title: China: The Next Huge Peat and Growing Media Market in the World
by Meng Xianming

China is rich in peat deposits, however 99% of it is sphagnum peat which is highly decomposed and has low fibre content. Hence, China has resorted to importing peat in order to fulfil the demands of the increasing population which has opened the door to soilless cultivation. Therefore there will be a huge market for peat as a growing media to meet this. China’s dream is to reach the levels in the West in the next 5 to 10 years. However, their peat industry strategy wants to adopt the ability for sustainable development hence one of the things they asked for during the congress is wetland restoration technology after extraction.

Title: Sarawak’s Approach to Sustainable Development
by Sudarsono Osman

Sarawak’s main economic drivers are oil and gas, palm oil and timber; the abundant natural resources of their land. Sarawak government realised that although have to be developed, there is a need to manage them sustainabily. Hence, as an initiatve, they developed a guide;  the Sarawak Land Use Policy that has to be adhered to if development is to occur. Under this policy, there is division of land to be used. In 1997, Sarawak government enacted the Sarawak Biodiversity Centre Ordinance to protect and develop the biological resources for the benefit of mankind and to provide mutual benefits to the indigenous communities through Access Benefit Sharing. Although, it seems that Sarawak continues to rely on natural resources but they also have a concern to diversify their economy to lessen their dependency on peatlands.

Title: Developing Sustainable Practices to Mitigate Impacts of Climate Change on Natural and Managed Tropical Peatlands
by Shailendra Mishra

The exposure of carbon-rich peat to air has resulted in enhanced microbial-mediated peat oxidation emitting high levels of greenhouse gases. Peat oxidation results in land subsidence thus increasing the risk of flooding that can affect livelihoods of millions of people. The study has revealed that the microbial profiles were most influenced by water table and land-use patterns, followed by age of drainage and peat thickness in that order. Plantation with mixed-cropping had the least subsidence rates as land subsidence is a proxy for peat loss by oxidation. This study may improve the sustainability of oil palm plantations by adopting mixed-cropping practices.

Title: Degradation Peatlands In Sumatra, Indonesia: How Land Rights Influence the Abandonment and Burning of Land
by Kosune Mizuno

Peatlands in Sumatra have been exploited on a large scale, leading to massive fires and lastly abandonment of the peatlands. The study showed that peatlands mostly belonging to state forest or adjacent to forest area have been legally or illegally exploited, then seriously burned and abandoned. However, those lands acquired before year 1984 have not been abandoned, although many of them have experienced fire. These are the inherited land with proper documentation (customary land rights).

Title: Let China Open the New Life Activity of the Peat Industry
by Xiancheng Zeng

The China Humic Acid Industry Association is now exploring the global market of peat material. In 2014, peat product sales in China were 5 million m3, the market demand now is 23 million m3 and it is expected to grow to 250 million m3. These new industries set up are worth 230 billion Yuan RMB. Based on current trend and development prospect, China is now moving towards the ‘New Life Activity’ of the peat industry starting from the resource allocation involving the “domestic and international” scope and strengthening the deep cooperation within the global peat industry.