Tropical peatlands under siege: The need for evidence-based policies and strategies: Special Issue

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Global change is a multifaceted phenomenon driven largely by human economic decisions in energy use and land use that cause unprecedented emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs), which in turn drive climate change and global warming. In the tropics, among the changing land uses in evidence is the conversion of peat swamp forests to other uses – mainly agriculture and tree plantation development – involving deforestation, extensive drainage and fires. Having large amounts of organic carbon, these vulnerable wetland ecosystems have become a major focus of the international community. At national levels, peatland development has raised significant challenges for both the public and private sectors.

Key features

The papers presented in the Special Issue feature cases in the Congo Basin, Indonesia and Peruvian Amazon that:
  • are relevant to the 2013 Supplement of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Guidelines for National Greenhouse Gas Inventory specially dedicated for wetlands
  • provide specific scientific information concerning peatland conversions, including high-tier emission factors and credible ancillary data and information for reporting purposes
  • describe challenges and opportunities for the wise use of different types of tropical peatlands despite extensive land-use change
  • demonstrate lessons learned from different regions and countries to avoid unsustainable land-use practices leading to peatland degradation and emissions of GHGs
  • synthesize options of policies and measures with Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement, and with mitigation strategies and mitigation mechanisms such as Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) and Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Action (NAMA).

Selected topics

The articles were selected from presentations at a scientific session organized during the International Union of Forestry Research Organizations (IUFRO) Congress and its 125th anniversary in Freiburg, Germany, in September 2017. They represent cases from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, Indonesia and Peru. The topics relate to largely biophysical issues, including emissions of GHGs, net primary production, respiration and hydrology, involving remote sensing and modeling tools. However, the information is policy relevant in three tropical regions where peatlands lie and which face different challenges.


  1. Introduction: Tropical peatlands under siege: the need of evidence-based policies and strategiesMurdiyarso D, Lilleskov E, and Kolka R
  2. Greenhouse gas emissions in restored secondary tropical peat swamp forestsMurdiyarso D, Saragi-Sasmito MF, and Rustini A
  3. Congo Basin peatlands: Threats and conservation prioritiesDargie GC, Lawson IT, Rayden T, Miles L, Mitchard ETA, Page SE, Bocko YE, Ifo SA, Lewis SL
  4. Is Indonesian peatland loss a cautionary tale for Peru? A two-country comparison of the magnitude and causes of tropical peatland degradationLilleskov E, McCullough K, Hergoualc’h K, del Castillo Torres D, Chimner R, Murdiyarso D, Kolka R, Bourgeau-Chavez L, Hribljan J, del Aguila Pasquel J, Wayson C
  5. Carbon stocks, emissions, and aboveground productivity in restored secondary tropical peat swamp forestsSaragi-Sasmito MF, Murdiyarso D, June T, Sasmito SD
  6. Greenhouse gas emissions along a peat swamp forest degradation gradient in the Peruvian Amazon: soil moisture and palm roots effectsvan Lent J, Hergoualc’h K, Verchot L, Oenema O, van Groenigen JW
  7. The influence of land-cover changes on the variability of saturated hydraulic conductivity in tropical peatlandsKurnianto S, Selker J, Kauffman JB, Murdiyarso D, Peterson JT
  8. Impacts of Mauritia flexuosa degradation on the carbon stocks of freshwater peatlands in the Pastaza-Marañón river basin of the Peruvian AmazonBhomia RK, van Lent J,. Rios JM, Hergoualc’h K, Coronado ENH, Murdiyarso D
  9. Land cover changes reduce net primary production in tropical coastal peatlands of West Kalimantan, IndonesiaBasuki I, Kauffman JB, Peterson J, Anshari G, Murdiyarso D
  10. Linking soil respiration in tropical peatlands with remotely sensed observations of water storage from the Gravity Recovery and Climate ExperimentSwails E, Yang X, Asefi S, Hergoualc’h K, Verchot L, and Lawrence D


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