Tropical peatlands at the Royal Geographical Society: where has the swamp gone?

Paul aplin in Malaysia

This coming Monday (7th December) Prof. Paul Aplin, a founder member of the UK-TPWG will present some of the results of his recent work to assembled guests at the Royal Geographical Society in London. Paul’s research focus is remote sensing of environmental distributions, with particular focus on spatial and temporal scales of observation, methods of land cover characterisation, and application to ecological problems. He has been at the forefront of UK remote sensing developments for the last decade, chairing the Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society, leading a major Earth Observation knowledge exchange initiative for the Natural Environment Research Council, and acting as national delegate in the International Society of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing. In recent years, Paul has become progressively soggier and grimier after being persuaded to team up on, first one, then a series of wetlands projects around the world.

In 2014 Paul won the RGS-IBG Ralph Brown wetland expedition award, and his upcoming presentation will focus on the decline of peat swamps in North Selangor, Peninsular Malaysia, driven in large part by expanding palm oil plantations. North Selangor includes a forest reserve covering more than 80,000 ha, and is home to mammals such as silvered monkeys, tapirs, and sun bears; the Sumatran rhino is now sadly extinct in Peninsular Malaysia. The region has seen an increase in the area of palm oil plantations (many in peatland areas) from 31,000 ha in 1966 to 183,000 ha in 1995, with further expansion since that time. Paul will also draw on his experiences of peatland research in Panama, including examples of how exploitation and conservation can be balanced.

Further details about RGS ‘Monday night lectures’ can be found here. Any other queries can be directed to

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