Indonesia ‘failing on pledge to reduce forest fires’


The Indonesian government failed to live up to its promises to reduce fires across the tropical nation last year, reports Mongabay.com.Take Cover library picture

It quotes The Jakarta Post as saying that the nation’s 2009 State Environment Report revealed a 59% increase in the number of fire hotspots from 19,192 in 2008 to 32,416 last year.

Officials are reported as saying that land clearing was the primary cause because, unlike temperature forests, intact rainforests rarely burn naturally.

“Illegal land clearing with fires by local people in Kalimantan and Sumatra is still rampant,” Heddy Mukna, deputy assistant for forest and land management at the Environment Ministry told the Post.

The state of Kalimantan on the island of Borneo saw fires triple in some areas from 2008 to 2009.

Haze blanketed much of the island last year during the “burning season”.

In 2007, the Indonesian government announced plan to cut forest fires in half to mitigate climate change from 35,279 fires in 2006.

The government has since revised that reduction from 50% to just 20%.

Indonesia is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world behind China and the US.

An estimated 80% of the nation’s 2.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions is from rainforest and peatland destruction.

Source: Mongabay.com

Date: 13/06/2010

‘Bog oaks’ reveal ancient forest


Naturalists in south-eastern England say they have been astounded by the large number of ancient trees that have been found preserved in the peat soil of the Fens, the BBC News website reports.

Conservationists in Cambridgeshire say dozens of the “bog oaks” – which can be up to 40ft (12m) long – have been unearthed.

They say it is not unusual to encounter one or two during ploughing – but in some areas dozens have been found.

Conservationists say more may be discovered as the Fenland peat is drying out and oxidising.

The remains of a forest that existed after the ice age, the trees rotted and fell into the peat soil, providing a snapshot of ancient natural history.

It is believed that the peat is disappearing at the rate of about an inch a year.

Although the trees are known by the local name of bog oaks, they can also be yew or pine.

BBC environment correspondent Sarah Mukherjee said they look as though they have just been felled – although some are blue or dark red from the minerals they have absorbed.

Chris Gerard, from the Great Fen Project, says they are a fascinating example of how the area has changed.

“When the glaciers retreated, at that time the sea level was quite low and the Fen basin was a very dry area, and covered in woodland,” he added.

“With the rising sea levels, the rivers couldn’t get out to the sea so quickly, they started to flood the Fen basin and that created the big Fen wetland, which the Fens is really known for, and all the trees that existed then died and fell into that emerging peat soil.”

Paul Mason, from the Haddenham Conservation Society, said they were usually found in twos and threes at most.

“In my fifty years of experience of the Fens here I’ve never seen this many come up at any one time together,” he added.

Source: BBC News website

Date: 27/02/2009

Indonesia favours palm oil over peatlands


The Indonesian government will allow developers to convert millions of hectares of land for oil palm plantations, reports Mongabay.com.

The decision threatens to undermine Indonesia’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from land use and fashion itself as a leader on the environment among tropical countries.

Gatot Irianto, head of research and development for the Agriculture Ministry, said the department is drafting a decree that would allow the drainage and conversion of peatland areas into oil palm estates.

“We still need land for oil palm plantations,” he told the Jakarta Post during a conference organised by the National Commission on Climate Change.

“We’ve discussed the draft with stakeholders, including hard-line activists, to convince them that converting peatland is safe,” he added.

“We promise to promote eco-friendly management to ward off complaints from overseas buyers and international communities.”

Degradation and destruction of peatlands in Indonesia results in hundreds of millions of tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

Generally, developers dig a canal to drain the land, extract valuable timber, before clearing the vegetation using fire.

In dry years these fires can burn for months, contributing to the “haze” that plagues south-east Asian with increasing frequency.

Fires in peatlands are especially persistent, since they can continue to smolder underground for years even after surface fires are extinguished by monsoon rains.

While burning releases enormous amounts of carbon dioxide, merely draining peatlands also contributes to global warming. Once exposed to air, the peat oxidises, leading to decomposition and the relsease of carbon dioxide.

A study led by UK researcher Dr Susan Page from the University of Leicester found that producing one tonne of palm oil on peatland resulted in the release of up to 70 tonnes over 25 years as a result of forest conversion, peat loss and emissions from slash-and-burn fires.

Source: Mongabay.com

Date: 15/02/2009

Indonesian province imposes deforestation ban


A province on the Indonesian island of Sumatra has pledged to stop destruction of its forests and peatlands in an effort to reduce carbon emissions from deforestation by 50% by 2009, Mongabay.com reports.

Riau’s governor announced the temporary ban, which will remain in place until signed into law, at a ceremony in the province’s capital Pekanbaru.

“The moratorium is an important first step and an opportunity for the local government, forest communities and other stakeholders to improve forest governance,” says Arief Wicaksono, Greenpeace Southeast Asia’s Political Advisor.

Curbing deforestation means the province will scale back plans to triple the area of land under oil palm cultivation.

Oil palm, which is used in the production of palm oil, is currently the largest driver of forest clearing in the province.

A study released in February estimated that deforestation of 4.2 million hectares of tropical forest and peat swamp in Riau over the past 25 years has generated 3.7 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide emissions.

Source: Mongabay.com

Date: 15/08/2008

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