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Forest Policy / Biosecurity

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Abstract:

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Massive fires in Indonesian peatlands in the 1990s and in eastern Russian peatlands in 2002 and last year have highlighted the need to manage forests overlying peat deposits, as well as converted peat forests and open peatlands. Peat or peaty soils, contain 65% or more of partially decayed vegetation, can burn freely or underground. They cover some 10 percent of worldwide forests and contain 25 percent of all terrestrial carbon. Recent massive greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from fires in forested peat and peatland in Indonesia and in Russia highlight the need for policies to reduce GHG emissions. We discuss major peatland areas and quantify their carbon stocks and potential GHG emissions. Trends show that year-to-year emissions are variable, with huge pulses that are a significant share of global GHG emissions. We group suggested policy options into three approaches. The first approach, which will reduce peat-related product demand, includes a) restricting peat, and products produced on cleared forested peatland, from being labeled or counted in GHG reduction achievements, as renewable (which palm oil currently is considered); b) developing full substitutes for horticultural peat (comprising about half mined peat use); and c) developing renewable power in countries still dependent on peat for power generation. These options reduce the rate of developing newly mined peat/forest areas. Options for a second approach, which treat already drained and cleared forested peatlands, are: d) restoring functioning peat ecosystems by closing drainage ditches, allowing natural rewetting, and “seeding” with peat vegetation fragments, e) requiring current peat operators to restore mined areas right after all peat is removed, and f) converting them to other land uses, despite the acidic conditions of mined peat bogs. These options sharply reduce risks of peat fires. Finally, a third group of policy options reduces ignition risks and limit fire spread: g) developing monitoring, suppression techniques, h) organizing local landowner protection groups and i) improving public fire organizations.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2011

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Forestry is the most widely circulated scholarly forestry journal in the world. In print since 1902, the Journal has received several national awards for excellence. The mission of the Journal of Forestry is to advance the profession of forestry by keeping forest management professionals informed about significant developments and ideas in the many facets of forestry: economics, education and communication, entomology and pathology, fire, forest ecology, geospatial technologies, history, international forestry, measurements, policy, recreation, silviculture, social sciences, soils and hydrology, urban and community forestry, utilization and engineering, and wildlife management. The Journal is published bimonthly: January, March, May, July, September, and November.
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