Cycle 1 (2011 Deadline)
Assessing degradation of tropical peat domes and dissolved organic carbon (DOC) export from Belait, Mempawah and Lower Kapuas rivers in Borneo
PI: Gusti Z. Anshari, Universitas Tanjungpura
US Partner: Charles F. Harvey, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Project Dates: June 2012 - May 2015
Indonesian and U.S. researchers take measurements of water collected during a September 2012 sampling campaign on the Landak and Ambawang Rivers, photo courtesy of Dr. Mark Doyle.
The tropical peat lands of Borneo and the rivers that flow through these landscapes are important for supplying natural goods, maintaining livelihoods, conserving biodiversity, and affecting climate. Peat forests and associated rivers provide timber, freshwater fish, and other natural products. Because tropical peats are only stable under water-logged environment, the climate must be sufficiently wet, or peat will not accumulate. Biodiversity also flourishes under a wet climate. Therefore, there is a strong link among sustainability of livelihoods, biodiversity, and the stability of climates. Increasing uses and disturbances of these peat forests and rivers induce degradation of tropical peat domes (including drainage), which leads to an increase of carbon dioxide emissions through the atmosphere and lateral export through rivers to the ocean. As a result, peat degradation not only depletes natural resources but also affects climate stability.
This project aims to link lateral carbon exports by rivers to characterization of peat degradation from satellite data and field measurements. The researchers will contrast rivers in North and South Borneo (i.e., the Belait River in Brunei Darussalam and the Mempawah and the Lower Kapuas Kecil River in West Kalimantan Province, Indonesia). Expected outputs of this joint research project include thematic maps of peat dome degradation and DOC fluxes from the rivers being studied. Although it has been recognized to be important, the fluvial export of carbon from tropical peatlands has rarely been assessed. In this project, sensors will be developed to evaluate DOC fluxes from these rivers to South China Sea with the aim of providing the first accurate measurement of fluvial carbon fluxes from tropical peat lands. This project also aims to increase awareness and knowledge of tropical peat lands, their role, and the impact of their degradation. For this purpose, a reference book and extension materials will be developed and disseminated in both English and Bahasa Indonesia. A multi-stakeholder workshop on the relation between tropical peat lands and climate change will be organized, and a website on climates and tropical peat lands will be constructed.
Summary of Recent Activities
In the first quarter of 2013, Dr. Anshari and his research group carried out a field survey to construct and validate a map of peat depth on Rasau Jaya Peat Dome and collect samples to be analyzed for density, water content, and fractions of organic carbon and total nitrogen. This dome was drained in 1972 as part of a government program to promote increased food production and encourage people from Java and Bali to migrate to less populated areas such as this. Although efforts to grow crops on the peat in this area proved unsuccessful, large parts of the dome were drained and the area was heavily deforested. The Rasau Jaya survey and subsequent data analysis took considerable time for Dr. Anshari's group, so follow-up fieldwork on Ambawang Peat Dome was postponed. Their planned visit to Brunei to conduct a hydrology workshop for researchers at a partner research site has also been delayed, as the Brunei counterparts were too busy during the past quarter. In the meantime, Dr. Anshari has purchased needed equipment and supplies for upcoming water sampling campaigns in both the wet (April) and dry seasons (June and July). During the latter period, U.S. partner Dr. Harvey is planning to visit Pontianak to participate in the sampling efforts. Dr. Anshari and his team also continue to refine their Rasau Jaya map, which they believe will be the first detailed map of a peat dome in Indonesia. They will present their results at a workshop on sustainable peatland management to be held in Jakarta in late April 2013, and between May and July they will resume their peat survey in Ambawang. A training workshop on carbon dynamics in tropical peats will be held in June to inform major peatland users of the importance of peat’s environmental function as a major carbon pool.
Measurement of peat depth, showing a boundary between peat
and mineral substratum.
Ilham, an undergraduate student, is measuring water
conductivity (in situ).
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