Imaging tropical peatlands in Indonesia using ground penetrating radar (GPR) and electrical resistivity imaging (ERI): implications for carbon stock estimates and peat soil characterization

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Current estimates of carbon (C) storage in peatland systems worldwide indicate tropical peatlands comprise about 15% of the global peat carbon pool. Such estimates are uncertain due to data gaps regarding organic peat soil thickness and C content. Indonesian peatlands are considered the largest pool of tropical peat carbon (C), accounting for an estimated 65% of all tropical peat while being the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions from degrading peat worldwide, posing a major concern regarding long-term sources of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. We combined a set of indirect geophysical methods (ground penetrating radar, GPR, and electrical resistivity imaging, ERI) with direct observations from core samples (including C analysis) to better understand peatland thickness in West Kalimantan (Indonesia) and determine how geophysical imaging may enhance traditional coring methods for estimating C storage in peatland systems. Peatland thicknesses estimated from GPR and ERI and confirmed by coring indicated variation by less than 3% even for small peat-mineral soil interface gradients (i.e. below 0.02°). The geophysical data also provide information on peat matrix attributes such as thickness of organomineral horizons between peat and underlying substrate, the presence of wood layers, buttressed trees and soil type. These attributes could further constrain quantification of C content and aid responsible peatland management in Indonesia.

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