Peatlands are a type of wetland and are among the most valuable ecosystems on Earth. The term ‘peatland’ refers to the peat soil and the wetland habitat growing on its surface. Peat is a swampy, water-logged soil that is made through the slow accumulation of dead trees, plants, and other organic material which can only partially decompose due to the volume of water these habitats contain.
These unique habitats store massive amounts of carbon, with stocks below ground amounting to up to 20 times the amount stored in trees and vegetation. Despite covering just 3% of the Earth’s surface, they store more carbon than all other vegetation types in the world combined. When peatlands are cleared, drained or burned, the carbon stored within them is released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.
Indonesia contains some 36% of the world’s tropical peatlands, however they are increasingly being destroyed to make room for plantation crops including oil palm and acacia. From 2000 to 2015, the country lost an average of 498,000 hectares of forest each year.
The Katingan Restoration and Conservation Project is located within the districts of Katingan and Kotawaringin Timur in the Central Kalimantan Province of Indonesian Borneo. The project sets out to protect and restore 149,800 hectares of peatland ecosystem.
This includes the protection of existing peatland forest through satellite monitoring and fire management. The forests are monitored through high-resolution satellite imagery which allow for the quick detection of small scale disturbances, such as logging or fire, giving field staff the ability to intervene before degradation turns into deforestation.
When the above-ground vegetation is cleared and the soil is drained, dried peat becomes highly susceptible to fires. The team manages to prevent fires from damaging the project area through a highly sophisticated process which includes 500+ trained community firefighters, drones, satellite monitoring and planting sections of fires-resistant tree species.
The team on the ground not only protect the area by preventing fire and illegal logging, but they also work to restore previously degraded areas of peatland forests through intensive peatland rewetting activities. These efforts include the blocking and backfilling of canals which take water away from the area, and the construction of deep wells.
Through the protection and restoration of peatland ecosystems, the project pursues three core goals: Firstly to protect the carbon stored within these peatlands and prevent its release into the atmosphere, mitigating climate change. Second, to protect the rich biodiversity of the region; this area is an important habitat for a diverse community of plant and animal species, containing 44 critically endangered or vulnerable species, including 5-10% of the world’s remaining Bornean orangutan population.
Finally, this project works to improve the well-being and sustainable economic prospects of the 43,000 local people, through initiatives such as micro-finance loans to support local female-led business, youth job training and internships, and the provision of health education and wellbeing support for the most vulnerable community members.
The Katingan Mentaya Project is a conservation enterprise that is founded on the understanding that forest environments, wildlife, and local rural communities are all closely connected and intertwined, and that to improve one element, you must engage all three.
This project is verified by the the Verified Carbon Standard and Climate, Community and Biodiversity Standard. You can view it on the Verra Registry here.
Climate solution #13
Peatlands, also known as bogs or mires, are neither solid ground nor water but something in between. Peat is a thick, mucky substance made up of dead and decomposing plant matter. It develops over hundreds, even thousands of years, as wetland vegetation slowly decays beneath a living layer of flora and in the near absence of oxygen.
Although these unique ecosystems cover just 3 percent of the earth’s land area, they are second only to oceans in the amount of carbon they store—twice that held by the world’s forests, at an estimated 500 to 600 gigatons. Protecting them through land preservation and fire prevention is a prime opportunity to manage global greenhouse gases.