Looking into the peat: How to biomass and carbon in peat forests with Sebastian Persch

Sebastian Persch, a PhD student and CIFOR researcher takes the journey to Berbak National Park in Sumatra once a month to measure above-ground and below-ground biomass — the living and dead trees, roots and vegetation that contribute to the carbon stock of the forest.

He carries with him a large black rucksack and carefully removes from it his BTC100X Minirhizotron Video Microscope, (a large rod-like camera), a bunch of cables and a laptop. He plugs it all in and begins to explore the underground world inside the peat soil, which hold some of the worlds richest pools of carbon.

Persch is trying to observe with his camera how the tiny roots from forest vegetation live, grow and die. He can use this information to calculate the amount of carbon input into the soil when the roots die.

The research is all part of CIFOR’s work on measuring and monitoring carbon and greenhouse gases in forests — crucial to the success of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation or REDD+. Emissions from forests constitute nearly 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally.

Deep in the forest — a full day’s journey up and down rivers and through the sea — Persch’s plastic pipes that penetrate the soil and provide a window into the peat stay in a realm seldom seen by humans.

In the film above he shows us the whole process and the nitty gritty work that is required to produce research on forests and climate change.