Peatland Protection & Restoration, Sumatra-Merang
The Peatland Protection & Restoration Project is bringing back degraded peatlands to life by protecting and rewetting 22,900 ha of peatland rainforest in Sumatra, Indonesia thus preventing the release of over 2.6 million tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere so far. The project has also improved a critical biodiversity region that is home to over 10 critically Endangered Species and the 19 Vulnerable Species.
Peatland Protection & Restoration
PT Global Alam Lestari
Merang-Kepayang peat dome
The Project lies in the Merang-Kepayang peat dome in Indonesia. The area is one of the largest peat swamp areas in South Sumatra (over 3.5 times the size of Manhattan) and a key conservation area, critical for hundreds of unique biodiversity. In the past decades, economic development due to global capitalistic pressures have pushed local Indonesian people to convert their precious ecosystems to supply the world with popular commodities like palm oil, pulpwood, timber, aquaculture and many more.
The project area itself was at risk from being converted for the pulpwood industry and had seen considerable peat degradation and loss of ecosystem services! The project activities have been designed to restore the degraded peats by methodically rewetting the area via the constructions of compaction dams and conducts daily patrolling to protect the area from poaching, illegal fire setting and land use. The project is also working effectively with the surrounding villages on education, training, employment and health, thus also improving local livelihoods and alleviating human pressures on peatlands.
The Peatland Protection & Restoration Project is a part of the Athelia Carbon Fund and is implemented by PT Global Alam Lestari (PT GAL), an Indonesian company and Forest Carbon, a Southeast Asian REDD+ consulting and project development firm. PT GAL holds a 25-year license for the purposes of carbon storage and sequestration. This license is renewable and gives the project partners legal primacy over commercial interests, including those who would use the area as a large-scale agro-industrial plantation, thereby avoiding complete deforestation and drainage of the entire project area.
Why this project?
Indonesia has the third largest rainforests in the world (Rainforest Action Network). Protecting the unique ecosystems in Indonesia is crucial since the forests here have the highest percentage of species diversity in the world.
One such important ecosystem is the Indonesian peatlands. Globally, peatlands are one of the most effective carbon sinks and store twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests (UNEP). Often due to lack of popular knowledge, peatlands in Indonesia are mistaken as wastelands and are converted to lands for human use by draining their water (Human Rights Watch, 2021). But draining peatlands leads to immense carbon emissions & they run the risk of catching fires that are unstoppable and ultimately negatively impact local air quality, livelihood security and human life. Thus, there is a strong incentive to prioritize the conservation of peatlands in areas like Indonesia to restore these already damaged ecosystems and protect the homes of species that are specific to these locations, which without the peatlands would be destined to decline and go extinct.
Good for Earth
Damaged peatlands have an acute risk of fire that further exacerbates the degradation of surrounding peatlands. The Project is using a two-pronged approach in rehabilitating peatlands.
First, the project supports a daily forest patrol system on the ground along with daily weather monitoring of the area using a Satellite based Early Warning System (EWS) to prevent occurance of any new fires. No sign of illegal logging and fires was found during the monitoring period between 2016-18. Second, the project is actively restoring damaged peat areas through reforestation, assisted natural regeneration and canal blocking (which is essentially a process of blocking the canals that were originally established to drain water out of peats). 91 compaction dams were installed for peatland rewetting, bringing the total to more than 180 so far in project lifetime, resulting in a water table rise of over 6cm. These activities will improve habitat regeneration for important species affected negatively by forest conversion, improve soil and water quality and enhance ecosystem services in the area.
The project also employs standardized and well-recognised surveying tools (camera traps, listening posts, vegetation surveys, transects) to continuously monitor the biodiversity on multiple levels, including threats of poaching, illegal hunting etc. Notable among the species within the project are the Sumatran tiger, rhinoceros, gibbons, hornbill and sun bear and numerous others. Within the monitoring period of 2016-18, 13 new species were recorded within the project area. It is estimated that these project benefits will have a spillover effect on the Sembilang-Berbak National Park and the Muaro Jambi peat swamp that lie around the project area thus enhancing the broader ecology of the region itself!
Positive for People
Despite no stakeholders living inside the project area, a key aspect of the Project involves improving the surrounding community that rely on the landscape for their livelihoods so that their work on the project area is long-term and sustainable.
So far, 21 traditional fishermen and two small-scale palm oil farmers have been identified that rely on the project area for livelihood and income. The project will support rural poverty reduction for these specific stakeholders and broader communities by generating employment with a target to hire 80% of its field staff from these communities. In addition, the Project prioritizes gender balance and aims to employ 25% women as project staff, along with a community development component targeting a number of women’s groups in nearby villages and settlements.
On education, the project has a goal of educating at least 45% of the total population in nearby villages through project lifetime.Throughout 2016-19, 127 students were educated, out of which 64 are women, including three students who have now come back as teachers in the community. Within the project lifetime, the project also intends to improve access to health programs of all 5752 residents of near-by villages. Other associated community actions include community garbage and waste cleanup initiatives, co-financing for the construction of household rainwater catchment systems, improvement of elementary and middle school sanitation facilities, and enrichment and maintenance of local school libraries.