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Cycle 6 (2017 Deadline)

Developing biodiverse agroforests on rewetted peatlands in Indonesia 

PI: Sonya Dewi,, International Centre for Research in Agroforestry (ICRAF)
U.S. Partner: Randall Kolka, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station

Project Overview:

The policy on peatland restoration in Indonesia is to rewet, requiring a minimum water table of 40 cm below the surface, to avoid future fire and haze episodes. Although rewetting is the most logical and effective means for restoring and conserving the biophysical condition of peatlands, the social and economic perspectives are overlooked. Four constraints to effective tropical peatland management (van Noordwijk et al., 2015) are (1) lack of scientific understanding of peatland and vegetation responses; (2) unwillingness to act by the national and local governments; (3) inability to act within existing legislative and economic realities; and (4) lack of attractive land-use options for smallholders and communities living on the edges of peatlands. With Indonesia’s new restoration policies, significant progress has been made to relieve constraints 2 and 3, but the primary constraints have shifted to 4 and associated parts of 1. This project aims to fill knowledge gaps through rigorous research assessing vegetation responses to drainage and rewetting in a range of disturbed peatland conditions, as current information is not sufficient to evaluate restoration options that have an economic return through utilizing valuable vegetation and fish. A plant ecological (functional traits) approach will be applied to focus on root-system adaptations to survive in wet conditions. Concurrently, the researchers will interview smallholders and the broader community to assess local knowledge, perceptions and preferences for peatland restoration economic development using well-established methods for participatory research.

Specific objectives include (1) assessing the richness and composition of peatland tree and plant species; (2) evaluating assess plant functional attributes in response to rewetting; (3) determining the domestication and adoption potential of adapted species; and (4) synthesizing and providing advice for policy and practice. The U.S. partners will provide guidance on study design, restoration methods, and vegetation options and help with data interpretation and publication across all aspects of the work. Expected outputs will be (1) options for peatland restoration that lead to local economic sustainability; (2) scientific publications and a database that can be leveraged for future studies; and (3) synthesis publications developed specifically to inform policymakers and practitioners that can be broadly used to advise peatland restoration actions regionally and nationally. More widely, the team’s results should inform those involved in peatland restoration, including private, industrial and governmental sectors, to gain a better understanding on choices of species for economic gain and potential for further domestication. This can inform extension programs being set up to assist smallholders and communities restore peatlands. The researchers will provide policymakers and executing agencies for peatland restoration evidence-based information on the potential species and practices for restoration that can improve local livelihoods in a range of land-use options.

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