Peatland degradation in Indonesia began to receive attention when forest fires broke out in 2015. 2.6 million hectares of peatlands caught fire and damaged one of the most diverse tropical ecosystems. Moreover, the damage caused a huge negative impact on both the ecology and the economy.
Peat restoration is a long process consisting of policy making, technical innovation, and social approach. Restoration aims to restore the hydrological function of degraded peat ecosystems and improve the welfare of the affected communities.
There are 3 main steps in peat restoration namely Rewetting, Revegetation, and Economic Revitalization
is a step to restore the hydrological function of peatlands through the development of peat rewetting infrastructure. Why do we need rewetting infrastructure to restore its hydrological function?
Peat in normal conditions has a water content of up to 80%. By maintaining its water balance, we almost control the entire ecosystem
What happens if the peatland loses 80% of its water content?
What remains in the region is a pile of dry organic material with a depth of 0.5 – >3 meters which is clearly flammable. Hydrological degradation of peat can be caused by several things such as extreme weather, massive expansion of the plantation industry, illegal logging, and the construction of ditches / canals.
Extreme meteorological events such as El-Nino cause long drought which results in a lack of water input on the surface of peatlands. In addition, the construction of canals / ditches also causes water deposits in peatlands to flow out quickly and excessively. Rewetting aims to hold water as long and as much as possible on the ground so the peatlands remain wet.
There are 3 forms of peat wetting infrastructure development:
- Deep Well ; carried out for periodic rewetting in the dry season so that the peatlands remain wet. In the event of a fire, the well can also be used for fire extinguish operations
- Canal Blocking; built to inhibit the flow of water in the canal / ditch. The water is held until it forms a difference of 40 cm in height between the surface of the water that is blocked by the canal blocking. With the canal blocking, the water can be held longer so that during the dry season the land remains in wet conditions
- Canal Backfilling; permanently close the canal network (carried out in conservation areas where agricultural / cultivation activities are not permitted)
The 3 main components of peat ecosystems are water, plants and peat soils. These three items play an important role in ecosystem sustainability. Revegetation was carried out to restore the ecological conditions in the priority area of the former fire.
The implementation of revegetation can also be divided into 2 namely active or passive revegetation.
– Active revegetation consists of enrichment planting and maximum pattern planting. Enrichment is carried out by planting native natural seedlings from peatlands in areas that are not represented to accelerate ecosystem recovery. Maximum pattern planting is implemented to restore peatlands with heavily damaged conditions.
– Passive revegetation or natural succession is a revegetation method implemented by suppressing natural regeneration inhibiting factors such as forest fire, weeds, and invasive species. Natural succession is carried out on land that is in the slightly damaged category.
The recommended plant species are peat native plants and plants that are adaptive to the acidity conditions of peatlands. The type of plants needs to be adjusted to the condition of the flooded land or not. For submerged land can be planted perupuk, Pulai, Sagu, etc. Meanwhile, for non-submerged land can be in the form of wood plants like belangiran, gelam, jelutung, meranti, etc.
Community economic revitalization in the concept of restoration which in my opinion is the most important because the occurrence of fire and peatland degradation is closely related to human activities. The revitalization of the community’s economy is carried out by providing a package of activities to improve the skills of community groups living close to or depend on peatlands areas. The community is given knowledge and opportunities to develop their businesses so that in the future the community will not depend entirely on peatlands or at least be able to manage peatlands wisely.
Revitalization programs can be divided into land-based (stock breeding, agriculture, hand-crafting), water-based (fishery), and environmental-based services (natural tourism). If the form of activities is agriculture, the selected plants must be plants that are adaptive, peat-friendly, and has economic value.
The implementation of revitalization has very heavy challenges. The activity package may not certainly work to every community groups. Problems that often arise are institutional / organizational weakness, lack of assistance, to product marketing problems. This often causes the program to crash and not sustainable.
Peat restoration has been carried out
However , “Why did there still be a fire in 2019?”
That question will try to discuss in the next article