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Cycle 6 (2017 Deadline)

Developing biodiverse agroforests on rewetted peatlands in Indonesia 

PI: Sonya Dewi,, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
U.S. Partner: Randall Kolka, USDA Forest Service Northern Research Station
Project Dates: December 2017 - November 2020

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.

Summary of Recent Activities

One highlight of this past quarter was the visit April 26 to May 4 of two U.S. partners on the project, Dr. Randall Kolka of the U.S. Forest Service and Dr. Rodney Chimner of Michigan Technological University. The PI Dr. Sonya Dewi reports that their visit was very fruitful in two ways: (1) speeding up and finalizing the sampling design for the biodiversity composition and functional trait study, and (2) introducing the project to a larger audience and inviting additional collaborations by means of the two workshops carried out during their stay. The sampling design finalization was conducted through a series of discussions between the project team and the two U.S. scientists during five days of field work in Central Kalimantan and a one-day discussion in Bogor. The field trip was targeted to observe the candidate sites identified from the first field trip conducted in the first quarter of 2018, and it provided a useful opportunity for Randy and Rod to provide their input. As a result, the sampling design was agreed upon at two levels. The first was at the landscape level, where the team decided to work in three main landscapes: (1) Sebangau National Park, which covers a gradient of degradation levels from intact to degraded, rewetted, and revegetated; (2) the Forest Research and Development Centre (FRDC) area in Tumbang Nusa, which covers a similar gradient; and (3) Block C of the ex-Mega Rice Project in Pulang Pisau, which covers a gradient from degraded to recently rewetted. At the plot level, the researchers decided to sample plots according to distances from the canal blocks perpendicular to the canals, as well as along the canals.

6-42 Peatland Field Visit6-42 Water Measurement
The project team on a field visit to the peatlandsThe team measures the water table in Sebangau (photos courtesy of Dr. Dewi).

In addressing the four objectives of the project, four thematic areas (TA) were identified: (TA1) assessments of plant community composition and diversity across a range of peatland land uses; (TA2) assessments of plant functional traits and indicators associated with tolerance and performance in peatlands; (TA3) assessments of local knowledge on peatland species utilization and their potential for adoption and domestication by farmers; and (TA4) syntheses on the adoption potential of peatland-focused species and practices. Based on observations and discussions, the team has also developed a detailed list of criteria for village selection, including types of land use, ethnicity, and duration of residence in the area (predominantly migrants vs. predominantly native populations).

As noted above, the team organized two technical workshops during the reporting period. The first was entitled “Multidimensional Aspect of Peatland Restoration in Indonesia.” It was held April 30, 2018, in Palangka Raya, in collaboration with the Centre for International Co-operation in Sustainable Management of Tropical Peatland (CIMTROP), University of Palangka Raya (UPR). The second workshop, “Bringing Science Closer to Policy in Restoring Peat Ecosystems,” was held May 3 in Bogor, co-organized with the Forestry Research, Development and Innovation Agency (FOERDIA) of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of Indonesia. The two workshops were successful in bringing prominent local, national, and global peatland restoration experts and policy makers to present on relevant topics. Discussions were lively, with inputs and questions from the participants in both workshops. One tangible output was the expressions of interest in collaboration that the PI and her group received from university students, especially from UPR but also other universities.

During July-October 2018, the project team and students will be intensively collecting data in the field and setting up experiments in their lab in Bogor. Prior to the field work, methods and guidelines will be finalized for the various aspects of the overall project, including a study of micro-topography at plot level, a survey on fish species composition across degradation levels, a protocol for producing peat water, and a survey on local knowledge. The students will be trained in data collection, recording, cleaning, and processing. Plots and transects will also be established in the various landscapes selected, with soil and root samples being collected. The surveys will also be initiated.

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