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The Precourt Institute for Energy is now part of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability.

Rewetting Indonesia’s Degraded Peatlands – A Natural Climate Solution

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Precourt Pioneering Project

Awarded in the focus area of Carbon Removal – Natural Climate Solutions
Award start date: August 1, 2022

Background

Tropical peatlands store large amounts of carbon belowground. In natural peatlands, wet conditions slow decomposition and lead to the accumulation of organic matter in meters-deep carbon-rich peat soils. However, these tropical ecosystems are threatened by drainage and deforestation, leading to rapid decomposition and release of these carbon stocks into the atmosphere. In SE Asia this is estimated to be 155± 30MtC per year, similar to total regional fossil fuel emissions. Rewetting tropical peatlands can restore degraded peatlands and stop these large CO2 emissions. However, prioritizing and implementing peatland restoration is challenging due to the diverse conditions in degraded peatlands from variable drainage intensity, deforestation rates, and water table depths. 

 


Project Goal

This project aims to develop a data-driven approach to identify cost-effective priority areas for rewetting and to validate the reduction of CO2 emissions. This project will establish the necessary foundation and provide a proof of concept for using remote sensing and airborne data to identify priority areas for peatland rewetting. This will provide policy makers and land managers with scalable tools for reducing CO2 emissions through peat rewetting.


Tasks and Timeline

The team will:
• Develop a methodology to combine multiple remote sensing approaches for targeting efficient peat rewetting opportunities and validate it with in-situ data.
• Work to understand how variables such as peat depth, subsidence rates, soil moisture, fire risk, drainage density, and land use influence the carbon balance of rewetted peatlands,
• Establish relationships between key variables and validate findings with in-situ data at a pilot study site.
• Apply the approach across the region of West Kalimantan, as a proof-of-concept for future application across Southeast Asia, by mapping high-priority areas for peatland rewetting and the cost per ton of avoided carbon emissions across diverse peatlands.


Team Members

Alison Hoyt 
Alison Hoyt is a professor in the Department of Earth System Science. She investigates soil carbon and greenhouse gas emissions, and their future response to climate change, with a combination of field and laboratory studies, numerical modeling and remote sensing. She has extensive experience working in tropical peatlands, conducting field campaigns across the tropics including in Indonesia, Brunei Darussalam, and the Peruvian Amazon.

Alexandra Konings
Alexandra Konings is a professor in the Department of Earth System Science. She has extensive experience in developing, validating, and applying new remote sensing technologies for a wide range of hydrological variables that play an important role in the carbon cycle. Konings has published several studies focusing on both fire and respiration-based carbon emissions that result from drainage and drying of Southeast Asian peatlands, as well as other work on soil respiration in other regions.

Rosemary Knight
Rosemary Knight is a professor in the Department of Geophysics. Her group studies environmental geophysics. They develop new ways to use Earth Imaging (satellite, airborne, and ground-based platforms) to study Earth’s near-surface region. She also researches rock physics with an emphasis on laboratory and theoretical studies of the link between measured electrical and elastic properties, nuclear magnetic resonance, and subsurface properties.

Gusti Anshari
Gusti Anshari is a professor at Tanjungpura University in Pontianak, Indonesia. His research focuses on the carbon cycle and hydrology of tropical peatlands. His work also addresses how these peatlands are impacted by land use change and the potential for peatland restoration and rewetting. He will participate in the project as an unfunded collaborator.