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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.

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).

Summary of Recent Activities

During October through December 2019, activities under Technical Activity 1 on this project (assessment of plant and fish community composition and diversity) focused on data analysis and synthesis. The PI Dr. Dewi and her colleagues integrated field data collected through this project with information in ICRAF’s wood density database. The goal of this integration is to develop a publication on functional traits of trees that can naturally regenerate after logging and/or fire in forests and agroforest areas in Indonesia. During the reporting period, the team also reviewed two research proposals of UPR students, who will develop their BSc theses from their studies on tree species diversity in Sebangau National Park and CIMTROP as part of this PEER project. The researchers are providing ongoing advice and technical supervision to these two students.
Technical Activity 2 on the project involves assessment of plant functional traits to determine their potential for use in peatlands regeneration efforts, and there were three main activities during the last quarter of 2019. The first was fieldwork in Sebangau National Park, Tumbang Nusa, and Misik Kameloh October 14-23 to collect data on the regeneration of vegetation, water level, and soil properties. The second involved research visits by two undergraduate students from the Silviculture Department of IPB University in October and December 2019. Both have now defended their theses and graduated, with members of the PEER research team serving as their supervisors and thesis examiners. The third activity was a presentation on the project at an event at the International Tropical Peatland Centre in Palangkaraya November 19-20.
Activities for Technical Activity 3 (assessing local knowledge and preferences on the use of plant species in rewetted peatlands) conducted during this past quarter primarily involved, supervision of three undergraduate students as they worked on their theses. One was peat species utilization, another on sago agroforestry, and the third on market analysis of peatland commodity species. The research teach on this activity also carried out a profitability survey of priority peatland species in November 2019. The survey was based on focus group discussions (FGD) in two villages in Jabiren Raya Subdistrict (i.e., Pilang, chosen to represent villages dominated by agroforestry, and Tanjung Taruna, to represent fishery-based villages). The objective of the FGD was to collect information on the community’s local knowledge on farming practices, potential options for agroforestry systems in peatland areas, and the input-output farm budget of agroforestry systems. Besides FGD, the researchers conducted individual interviews with 30 farmers from three selected villages to get detailed information regarding the inputs-outputs of the most common agroforestry systems practiced in Jabiren Raya Subdistrict. The results of this work have been collated into a dataset on the profitability of agroforestry systems in rewetted peatlands, with the final analysis to be conducted in February 2020. The researchers on this Technical Activity also completed a market survey of priority peatland species in November 2019 by means of a rapid market assessment of timber and non-timber products, i.e., gelam (Melaleuca spp), forest honey, and rubber. The team also visited to PT. Kahayan Berseri (a rubber factory) to discuss the overall production of latex from peatland areas in Pulang Pisau, as well as the factory’s capacity, operations, supply and distribution chains, and quality assurance methods. The researchers are cleaning up the data collected from the survey so it will be ready for analysis in February 2020.
Technical Activity 4 on this project is aimed at developing relevant policy recommendations. In December 2019, participants on the other three activity teams met to design training curricula for disseminating their research findings. Particularly for local stakeholders in Pulang Pisau District, the thematic training will focus on the domestication of peatland species and options for agroforestry management under rewetted peatland areas. The training curricula will be revised and finalized by the end of January 2020. One expected outputs from the training is a set of guidelines for the design of agroforestry management under rewetted peatland areas.
Activities during the first half of 2020 will including ongoing data collection and analysis, supervision of students, and preparation of technical manuscripts and training materials. The training envisioned under Technical Activity 4 will be conducted in late February 2020 with the objective of sharing research findings with local stakeholders (mainly farmers and extension officers) and obtaining their feedback on the design of agroforestry plans that can be applied under rewetted conditions. The two-day training event will cover domestication techniques and agroforestry management options for five locally important species: gelam, rubber, gemor, sagu, and timber species (balangeran). In late April, Dr. Dewi and her colleagues will organize a writeshop to synthesize all the research results and manage the database compiled from input from all technical activities within this project. U.S. partner Dr. Randall Kolka will visit Bogor and participate in the writeshop as the senior advisor of the project. Prior to the writeshop, an internal project team meeting will be held in early March 2020 to develop a publication plan and strategy, including the identification of publication lists upon reviewing the database that has been compiled and produced in the past two years.

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