Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

'Devil is in the details': Documenting carbon sequestration in Borneo

Date:
August 28, 2014
Source:
South Dakota State University
Summary:
It’s that time of year again -— the dry season in southeastern Asia when smoke and particulates from Indonesian peat swamp fires on the island of Borneo drift across to neighboring countries. Indonesia is trying to reduce carbon emissions, but documenting carbon sequestration to reward nations for their efforts through programs such as REDD and REDD Plus can be challenging.

Smoke in the background provides evidence that thin layers of the organic matter compacted beneath senior scientist Mark Cochrane’s feet are on fire. These peat fires can only be extinguished when the land floods.
Credit: Image courtesy of South Dakota State University

It's that time of year again -- the dry season in southeastern Asia when the Haze Wave begins. Smoke and particulates from Indonesian peat swamp fires on the island of Borneo drift drift across to neighboring countries.

"We treat it as a natural disaster, but it happens every year," says Melvin Lee, a Malaysian whose parents live on the northwestern side of Borneo. "It affects the whole continent of Southeast Asia."

Deforestation from an ill-fated plan to convert nearly 2.5 million acres of Kalimantan peat swamp forest into rice paddies has contributed to Indonesia becoming the third-largest emitter of carbon, according to professor Mark Cochrane, a senior scientist at the Geospatial Sciences Center for Excellence.

Through a three-year, $2.2 million grant from NASA, Cochrane and his team are using satellite imaging, field studies and modeling to help the Indonesian Forest Research and Development Agency assess the progress being made to reduce carbon emissions from Borneo's ancient peat swamp forest.

He collaborates with carbon emissions expert Robert Yokelson, a chemistry professor from the University of Montana. The grant is part of NASA's global carbon monitoring program, which is part of an international focus on reducing emissions due to deforestation.

Creating disastrous situation

The peat forest soils consist of large accumulations of dead organic matter, some of it tens of thousands of years old, that are more than 20 feet deep, Cochrane explains. When the land is drained, the organic matter compacts, decays and releases carbon.

Once the logging companies completed their work, the indigenous people and a host of new settlers were left to figure out how to survive in this altered environment. That can mean burning to clear the peat surface for hunting, fishing and subsistence-level farming.

These peat fires can last for weeks or months, creating the thick smoke and suspended particulates that are carried to neighboring countries.

Cochrane estimates that the peat contains 20 times as much carbon as the forest trees themselves did. As part of his research, Cochrane hopes to figure out which fires are most likely to result in peat fires.

Quantifying reduced emissions

An international program called reduced emission through deforestation and degradation, or REDD, offers monetary rewards to countries that reduce their carbon emissions, according to Cochrane. Another program, REDD Plus, takes this one step farther, making sure that the funds go to support the livelihoods of the people in the region, such as developing a sustainable logging system.

However, progress in carbon sequestration must be documented by a third party, he explains. That's the challenge: "What does it take to credibly show that you've done something?"

The basic idea is simple, Cochrane says, but "the devil is in the details."

As a first step, Cochrane and his colleagues analyzed satellite imaging of land cover as far back as 1993 to document when the forest was cleared and the land drained. But areas of forest that are simply thinned are harder to track, he explains.

Using laser mapping

To get a better read on the vegetation and hydrology, the researcher uses light detecting and ranging, commonly called LIDAR. The laser mapping technique gathers remote sensing data via an airplane. Nearly $20 million has been put into field data collection by the Australian government in recent years.

The initial dataset was collected in 2007 and a second in 2011. Looking at specific points that had surface fires, Cochrane can surmise that those areas that have gotten lower had peat soil losses as well due to subsurface fires.

Using these comparisons, Cochrane is developing a model to predict how much peat will be burned based on given conditions.

A third set of LIDAR data is being acquired this year. Comparison with the 2011 data will then allow Cochrane to adjust the statistical model. The goal is to develop a monitoring tool which will allow a third party to reliably estimate how much carbon is being lost and subsequently how that number has decreased over time, he explains.

Up to 200 different gases may be escaping through these fires, but no method currently exists to accurately determine the composition of peat fire emissions. In the past, researchers have estimated emissions by hacking out a block of peat and analyzing it in the lab, but Cochrane points out, "that's not the way things burn in the field."

Next year Yokelson will take his lab equipment into the field to monitor peat fires emissions, so the researchers can get "the best data for peat fire emissions anywhere in the world," Cochrane says.


Story Source:

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


Cite This Page:

South Dakota State University. "'Devil is in the details': Documenting carbon sequestration in Borneo." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 August 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140828184741.htm>.
South Dakota State University. (2014, August 28). 'Devil is in the details': Documenting carbon sequestration in Borneo. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140828184741.htm
South Dakota State University. "'Devil is in the details': Documenting carbon sequestration in Borneo." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140828184741.htm (accessed September 19, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

Raw: Wildfires in CA Burn Forest Asunder

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) An out-of-control Northern California wildfire has nearly 2,800 people from their homes as it continues to grow, authorities said Thursday. Authorities said a man has been arrested on suspicion of arson for starting the fire on Saturday. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

Raw: Elephant Undergoes Surgery in Tbilisi Zoo

AP (Sep. 18, 2014) Grand the elephant has successfully undergone surgery to remove a portion of infected tusk at Tbilisi Zoo in Georgia. British veterinary surgeons used an electric drill to extract the infected piece. (Sept. 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

Raw: Scientists Examine Colossal Squid

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) Squid experts in New Zealand thawed and examined an unusual catch on Tuesday: a colossal squid. It was captured in Antarctica's remote Ross Sea in December last year and has been frozen for eight months. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

Man Floats for 31 Hours in Gulf Waters

AP (Sep. 16, 2014) A Texas man is lucky to be alive after he and three others floated for more than a day in the Gulf of Mexico when their boat sank during a fishing trip. (Sept. 16) Video provided by AP
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:
from the past week

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