GLF, UN Environment Initiatives Spotlight Role of Peatlands in Climate Mitigation, Community Development
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In Jakarta, Indonesia, the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) held a thematic session on the management and protection of peatlands, less than two-years after fires in Indonesia drew international attention to the importance and fragility of these ecosystems.

Prior to this meeting, UN Environment held the second partner meeting of the Global Peatlands Initiative.

The Center for International Forest Research (CIFOR) of the CIGAR Consortium released a mapping of global peatlands and wetlands, using high spatial detail and a multi-source approach.

18 May 2017: In Jakarta, Indonesia, the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) held a thematic session on the management and protection of peatlands, less than two-years after fires in Indonesia drew international attention to the importance and fragility of these ecosystems. The session drew attention to the role of peatlands in climate change mitigation, in sustaining livelihoods and communities, and in the protection of biodiversity. Prior to this meeting, UN Environment (UNEP) held the second partner meeting of the Global Peatlands Initiative. Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Indonesia and Peru may contain some of the worlds large tracks of peatlands, with research suggesting that in the DRC alone, peatlands may hold 30 billion tons of carbon or three years worth of global carbon emissions.

In the DRC alone, peatlands may hold 30 billion tons of carbon or three years worth of global carbon emissions.

The GLF session on ‘Peatlands Matter’ sought to prove that local experiences are a crucial component of peatland management. The event brought peatland communities to the forefront of the conversation, aiming to learn from on-the-ground experiences and share community knowledge with policy-makers, scientists and stakeholders. Plenaries addressed community perspectives and priorities in peatlands, and challenges and opportunities regarding peatlands around the world. Scientific discussions organized by CIFOR, UN Environment, the World Bank, and the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) explored various topics, including measuring carbon stocks in peatlands, studying the health effects of fire and haze, leveraging investment for peatland restoration, and making the connection between people and peat. [GLF Event Highlights] [Event Programme]

The GLF events showcased case studies from around the globe. In Peruvian Amazonia for instance, the Pastaza Marañon Basin stores an amount of carbon in peat soil equivalent to more than 100 years of the country´s anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases. These peatlands however are showing clear signs of degradation. A team of scientists recently published a pilot study that was the first to attempt to map and characterize the degradation of this area. In Indonesia, peatland degradation owes to logging, drainage and burning. Key challenges in Indonesia’s effort to prevent and respond to land and forest fires include lack of capacity and coordination of relevant public actors, and lack of awareness among communities and companies about fire-related risks. In the framework of the ‘Generating Anticipatory Measures for Better Utilization of Tropical Peatlands’ (GAMBUT) project, UN Environment and the UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS) are testing technically sound peat rehabilitation methods in Central Kalimantan, engaging land-use managers and communities. This project will support communities’ involvement in peatland and peat forest fire control through small grants, while improving communities’ welfare through the development of alternative, environmentally friendly activities, such as horticulture and fishery. [CIFOR Blog Post] [Characterizing Degradation of Palm Swamp Peatlands from Space and on the Ground: An Exploratory Study in the Peruvian Amazon] [UN-REDD Press Release on the GAMBUT Project]

In concert with the GLF, the Center for International Forest Research (CIFOR) of the CIGAR Consortium released a mapping of global peatlands and wetlands, using high spatial detail and a multi-source approach (satellite, climatic and topographic data). According to CIFOR, the research found “unprecedented extents and volumes of peatlands in the tropics, three times the size of previous estimates, and mainly outside Asia.” The map indicates that South America, particularly Brazil, may host the largest peat areas, followed by Indonesia. The interactive map is meant to facilitate scientific engagement to validate new peat hotspots, and to support countries hosting peatlands to direct, locate and prioritize their conservation and management. [CIFOR Press Release] [CIFOR Brief: New Map Reveals More Peat in the Tropics]

The research is meant to help countries find out if they have peatlands, determine their size and ascertain how best to protect them.

Prior to the GLF, UN Environment held the second partner meeting of the Global Peatlands Initiative from 15-17 May 2017, also in Jakarta. The Initiative, which includes forest and tropical peat countries, multilateral organizations and NGOs, supports the conservation and restoration of peatlands globally, with Indonesia becoming the first country to undertake large-scale peatland restoration. The meeting served as an opportunity to update the database of global peatlands, and exchange experiences and approaches on peatland assessment, restoration, conservation and sustainable use.

Tim Christophersen, Senior Programme Officer of Forests and Climate Change for UN Environment, noted that countries are unaware of how peatlands fit into the climate convention. He said that UN Environment will put out a Global Rapid Response Assessment later this year on peatlands and next year, this will be followed by the release of a more in-depth scientific global assessment. The research is meant to help countries find out if they have peatlands, determine their size and ascertain how best to protect them. [Global Peatlands Initiative Webpage] [Second Partner Meeting Webpage] [UN Environment Press Release] [CIFOR Blog Post on Black Gold] [Interview with Tim Christophersen]


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