Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Carbon Dioxide Expelled From Peatland When Natural Swamp Forest Is Converted To Oil Palm

Date:
December 15, 2007
Source:
University of Leicester
Summary:
A new data analysis shows conclusively that large amounts of carbon dioxide are released from peatland in Southeast Asia when it is converted from natural swamp forest to plantations of oil palm or pulpwood trees. This supports the findings of a recent Greenpeace report on the impact of growing oil palm on tropical peatlands.

A new data analysis undertaken by Dr. Susan Page of the University of Leicester Department of Geography and colleagues involved in the EU-funded CARBOPEAT and RESTORPEAT projects shows conclusively that large amounts of carbon dioxide are released from peatland in Southeast Asia when it is converted from natural swamp forest to plantations of oil palm or pulpwood trees.

Related Articles


This supports the findings of a recent Greenpeace report on the impact of growing oil palm on tropical peatlands.

According to Professor Jack Rieley of the School of Geography, University of Nottingham these new life cycle analysis calculations show that all forms of land use change on tropical peatland lead to massive losses of carbon from the peat store and the transfer of large amounts of CO2e to the atmosphere contributing to climate change processes.

The worst land use scenario is degraded peatland. This is peatland that has been deforested and drained but is not currently managed; these degraded peatlands are susceptible to fire in every dry season which leads to large carbon emissions. Plantations of oil palm and acacia trees grown for pulpwood, however, also lose large amounts of carbon (see table) owing to rapid decomposition of the peat carbon store as a result of oxidation caused by deep land drainage.

Natural peat swamp forest acts as a carbon sink accumulating at least 2.6 t ha-1 CO2e yr-1 as a consequence of tree growth and peat accumulation. Peatland under plantation agriculture and degraded peatland are both major carbon sources with oil palm and pulpwood plantations emitting CO2 e in the order of 170 and 280 t ha-1 yr-1, respectively, equivalent to 1,000 and 1,900 t ha-1 yr-1 over the 25 year life cycle.

Since the areas occupied by oil palm plantations on peatland in Malaysia and Indonesia are huge, in the order of 420,000 hectares for the former and 2,800,000 ha for the latter, the combined 25 year life cycle CO2e emissions are enormous and in the region of 3,220 Mt CO2e.

According to Professor Florian Siegert of Ludwig-Maximilians-University, Munich, Germany, who is studying land cover change in Southeast Asia, the large increase in area of oil palm projected to take place in coming years to satisfy the biofuels market will release much more CO2 emissions than the fossil fuel it is supposed to replace (up to 30 times more depending upon management of individual plantations). The emissions associated with palm oil plantations growing on thick tropical peat are particularly massive.

In Indonesia it is estimated that producing 1 tonne of palm oil on peatland will cause emissions of between 15 and 70 tonnes of CO2 over the life cycle of 25 years as a result of forest conversion, peat decomposition and emission from fires associated with land clearance. The range of emission values is so large because oil palm fruit harvest can be much lower on nutrient poor and poorly drained peat soils. Peat swamp forests are the only major land area not yet developed in Southeast Asia, but increased demand for palm oil and pulp for paper is already leading to accelerated conversion of peat swamp forests into plantations.

This new assessment of the impact of plantations on CO2e emissions from tropical peatland is very important, especially in view of the upcoming UNFCCC climate change conference that will be held in Bali, Indonesia from this week (4-14 December). Delegates to the Bali COP will discuss proposals to improve international requirements for reduced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions under the Kyoto Protocol. Up until quite recently most attention was focused on GHG emissions from industry and the burning of fossils fuels. There is now an enhanced emphasis on emissions from non-industrial sources, such as deforestation, agricultural practices and, in the case of Southeast Asia, peat swamp reclamation. Various mechanisms to reduce emissions from deforestation have been proposed to UNFCCC and will be discussed during the Bali meeting.

Dr Susan Page said: “Current land use and land practise developments in Southeast Asia give grave cause for concern. While deforestation rates in non-peatland areas are decreasing slightly owing to depletion of forest resources, those on peatlands have been rising for the last 20 years. In 2005, 25% of all deforestation in Southeast Asia was on peatlands owing to demand for land on which to establish plantations. Current UNFCCC negotiations in Bali on reduced emissions from deforestation and degradation (REDD) could offer a crucial opportunity to reduce carbon emissions from tropical peatlands and thus contribute to combating global climate change.”

Time for action: Dr Page went on to say that “The Government of Indonesia should regard its peatlands as a ‘bank’ because they are worth more as biodiversity and carbon stores than oil palm or pulp tree plantations. As a first step it should rescind ALL concession licenses that have been (and still are being) granted for new plantations on its peatland, especially those granted by the decentralized local governments without carrying out Environmental Impact Assessments. It is clear with current rates of peatland conversion that the Indonesian Government cannot reduce its massive non-industrial CO2 emissions unless it stops plantation and other agricultural and industrial uses of its peatlands, and takes serious measures to protect the natural resource functions of biodiversity, carbon and water stores of the remaining peat swamp forests”.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Leicester. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of Leicester. "Carbon Dioxide Expelled From Peatland When Natural Swamp Forest Is Converted To Oil Palm." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 15 December 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071206235448.htm>.
University of Leicester. (2007, December 15). Carbon Dioxide Expelled From Peatland When Natural Swamp Forest Is Converted To Oil Palm. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071206235448.htm
University of Leicester. "Carbon Dioxide Expelled From Peatland When Natural Swamp Forest Is Converted To Oil Palm." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/12/071206235448.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

Raw: Lava on Track to Hit Hawaii Market

AP (Dec. 19, 2014) Lava from an active volcano on Hawaii's Big Island slowed slightly but stayed on track to hit a shopping center in the small town of Pahoa. (Dec. 19) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Arctic Warming Twice As Fast As Rest Of Planet

Newsy (Dec. 18, 2014) The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, thanks in part to something called feedback. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins