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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
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 - December 2015

Project Overview 

Indonesia Partnership Photo
Dr. Anshari’s student, Ms. A. Putri, measures pH and conductivity of water samples on the boat during the June 2013 sample campaign (photo courtesy of Dr. Anshari).

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
 
The first quarter of 2015 was a heavily academic period for this project team. Nuriman wrote the article An Alternative Method for Estimating Dissolved Organic Carbon (DOC) Concentration in Drainage Canal and Peat Pore Water, which was accepted for publication in Journal Tanah dan Iklim for the July 2015 edition. Team members Randi Ade Chandra and Harun completed their proposals and will collect gas samples data while Putri Juliandini is still writing her proposal, but is expected to complete it by May. Lastly, Reza Rinady completed his bachelor thesis and will graduate in late April.

In the second quarter of 2015, the project team will work to promote their work and results to selected stakeholders, particularly the government, private companies and academia. The project will also be promoted at the AGU Joint Assembly meeting in Montreal in 2015 where Dr. Anshari will present the results before visiting Oregon State University where he will give a lecture and investigate organic matter fractionation on peat samples. Multiple articles will also be written during this period and submitted to international journals and the team will acquire a new gas analyzer.
 
  Indonesia Partnership Photo B
Measurement of peat depth, showing the boundary between peat and the mineral substratum (photo courtesy of Dr. Anshari).
  Indonesia Partnership Photo C
Undergraduate student Ilham measures water conductivity (in situ) (photo courtesy of Dr. Anshari).

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