Peat in the news


The problems in Southeast Asian peatlands are ongoing and will take years to solve, but efforts continue on the part of scientists and those working in agriculture to reduce emissions and limit burning. Yet controversy remains, with palm oil being a major source of income in the region, and with powerful lobbying forces attempting to argue that peatlands should not be made into totally protected areas. While Indonesia has taken some steps towards legislating to protect peatlands, with the government acting in the wake of the 2015 fires, the Malaysia government has unswervingly supported the palm oil industry. Following the 15th International Peat Congress in August, the first held in Southeast Asia, four scientists including our own Sue Page have written a letter which was published in Science on the 4th November. In it they reiterate arguments that using peatlands for agriculture is unsustainable:

“Peat fires are globally significant for their greenhouse¬†gas emissions and threats to human health and regional economies. Peat oxidation leads to high CO2 emissions and land subsidence. As the land surface falls toward river and sea levels, it will be subject to periodic and eventually permanent flooding, limiting future agricultural production (5). Agricultural use of peatlands cannot, therefore, be considered sustainable from either environmental or socioeconomic perspectives.”

The full content of the letter by Wijedasa et al. can be read here