The climate mitigation potential of tropical peatlands has gained increased attention as Southeast Asian peatlands are being deforested, drained and burned at very high rates, causing globally significant carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to the atmosphere. We used a process-based dynamic tropical peatland model to explore peat carbon (C) dynamics of several management scenarios within the context of simulated twenty-first century climate change. Simulations of all scenarios with land use, including restoration, indicated net C losses over the twenty-first century ranging from 10 to 100 % of pre-disturbance values. Fire can be the dominant C-loss pathway, particularly in the drier climate scenario we tested. Simulated 100 years of oil palm (Elaeis guineensis) cultivation with an initial prescribed burn resulted in 2400-3000 Mg CO2 ha-1 total emissions. Simulated restoration following one 25-year oil palm rotation reduced total emissions to 440-1200 Mg CO2 ha-1, depending on climate. These results suggest that even under a very optimistic scenario of hydrological and forest restoration and the wettest climate regime, only about one third of the peat C lost to the atmosphere from 25 years of oil palm cultivation can be recovered in the following 75 years if the site is restored. Emissions from a simulated land degradation scenario were most sensitive to climate, with total emissions ranging from 230 to 10,600 Mg CO2 ha-1 over 100 years for the wettest and driest dry season scenarios, respectively. The large difference was driven by increased fire probability. Therefore, peat fire suppression is an effective management tool to maintain tropical peatland C stocks in the near term and should be a high priority for climate mitigation efforts. In total, we estimate emissions from current cleared peatlands and peatlands converted to oil palm in Southeast Asia to be 8.7 Gt CO2 over 100 years with a moderate twenty-first century climate. These emissions could be minimized by effective fire suppression and hydrological restoration.
Publication Year: 2016
Source: Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change : 1-21Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.