Lahiru’s new paper on carbon emissions from Southeast Asian peatlands published in Global Change Biology

Peatlands in Southeast Asia have been extensively cleared and drained for agriculture in recent decades, resulting in a source of carbon emissions that is significant on a global scale. In Lahiru’s new paper published in Global Change Biology, he and coauthors have quantified past carbon emissions from these peatlands and estimated future emissions under a variety of scenarios. They estimated historical emissions from 1990–2010 at 1.46–6.43 GtCO(0.3–1.2% of global carbon emissions), and projected emissions over the period 2010–2030 at 4.43–11.45 GtCO2.

Of the projected future emissions, 51% are expected to come from areas that have already been cleared for agriculture, as the deep peat soils continue to release their stored carbon. This highlights the need for a focus on sustainable agriculture and peatland restoration as well as conservation of intact peatlands. Another surprising finding was that a high proportion of peatland conversion to agriculture has occurred outside of industrial plantations. In Indonesia, 70% of conversion has occurred outside of government concessions, and 60% of this is attributable to smallholders. This points to a potentially important role for industry in conservation of remaining peatlands.

Lahiru S. Wijedasa, Sean Sloan, Susan E. Page, Gopalasamy R. Clements, Massimo Lupascu & Theodore A. Evans. Carbon emissions from Southeast Asian peatlands will increase despite emission-reduction schemes. Global Change Biology https://doi.org/10.1111/gcb.14340

UPDATE: Nature has published an interview with Lahiru about his peatland research.

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