Burning need for more funds to restore Indonesian peatlands

22 January 2018
Indonesian peat forest which burned in 2015

A major shortfall in funding to restore Indonesia’s degraded peat forests means the country is facing a difficult environmental decision, an international study has found.

Restoring the country's peat forests is essential to reduce the extent and frequency of large-scale fires, which have already caused more than 100,000 premature deaths, released greenhouse gases, destroyed the habitats of threatened species.

University of Queensland School of Earth and Environmental Sciences PhD student Amanda Hansson said Indonesia’s target to restore two million hectares of peat forest was likely to cost more than US$4.6 billion.

“The currently allocated US$200 million in Indonesian and international funds would only restore about 100,000 hectares of peat,” she said.

“This shortfall means Indonesia will have to choose between using best-practice methods in smaller areas or using cheaper and potentially ineffective restoration methods to reinstate larger areas of degraded peat forest.”

Peat is formed under very wet conditions, when dead plant material is unable to decay in a flooded environment.

Ms Hansson and Deputy Head of School Associate Professor Paul Dargusch said the study aimed to understand the restoration activity needs of Indonesia’s degraded peat forests.

It also examined restoration methods and their applications and the classification of degraded peatlands, and applied these classifications to estimate the cost of restoration.

“Many degraded peat forests in Indonesia - caused by draining and clearing - have shown poor signs of natural regeneration, and will require assisted restoration,” Ms Hansson said.

“An initiative to restore more than two million hectares of degraded peat by 2020 has been outlined by the Indonesian Peatland Restoration Agency.”

Ms Hansson said the study proposed classifying areas of the peat forests based on the type of restoration activities required – determined by fire history, logging, and the width of canals used to drain the peat.

She said classification helped in calculating the cost of restoration per hectare, estimated to range between US$25 and US$400.

The research is published in Case Studies of the Environment, (doi: 10.1525/cse.2017.000695).

Image above: Peat forest burned in the 1990s that has since been restored through assisted revegetation 

Media: Amanda Hansson, a.hansson@uq.edu.au, +61 401 195 409 or Paul Dargusch, p.dargusch@uq.edu.au, +61 7 3365 1594.