Sebastian Persch on land-use change: A root perspective

Tropical peat swamp forests are among the carbon (C) richest ecosystems on earth, but are increasingly degraded and converted to oil palm plantations. Estimates of C losses from this conversion are currently critically lacking. In our case study we examined above- and belowground C stocks in the phytomass of a primary peat swamp forest, a degraded drained peat forest, and a seven-year-old oil palm plantation on peat in Jambi province, Sumatra, Indonesia. Total C stocks in the phytomass were 215.6 ± 7.1 in the primary peat swamp forest, 113.0 ± 7.5 in the degraded forest, and 26.3 ± 3.4 Mg ha-1 in the oil palm plantation. Roots represented 10%, 15% and 18% of total biomass C stocks in the previously mentioned ecosystems. Our results indicate that as much as 102.7 ± 10.4 and 189.3 ± 7.9 Mg C ha-1 of phytomass can be lost when a primary peat swamp forest is degraded (logged and drained) and converted to a seven year old oil palm plantation, respectively. Our findings underline the importance of protecting this fragile disappearing ecosystem.

Moderator: Robert Nasi, Deputy Director General – Research, CIFOR.

Speaker: Sebastian Persch, PhD student, CIFOR.

Date: 19 August 2014

Location: CIFOR Headquarters, Bogor, Indonesia.

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