Improving capacities towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions from peat swamp forest fires in Indonesia 

Project title: Improving capacities towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions from peat swamp forest fires in Indonesia [Project ID: 2018P5-IND]
Supervisory agency: Ministry of Environment and Forestry
Executing agency: Forest Research and Development Center, Forestry and Environment Research Development and Innovation Agency (FOERDIA), Ministry of Environment and Forestry
Implementing agency: School of Ecosystem and Forest Sciences, Faculty of Science, University of Melbourne, Australia
Budget in USD (total/APFNet grant): 498,170/199,990 
Start date & duration: January 2019, two years (January 2019–December 2021)
Target economy: Indonesia
Location: Kalimantan and Sumatra, Indonesia
Objectives:  Develop a baseline of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (CO2 and non-CO2) from peat swamp forests at different degradation stages by empirically measuring fuel loads in fine and coarse size categories and determining combustion factors for each size category; Identify drivers of emissions from peat swamp forest fires; Develop a methodology for reducing GHG emissions based on the knowledge accrued in the project.
Expected outputs: Improved estimates of GHG emissions from peat swamp forest fires based on comprehensive field measurements; Updated methodology on estimating GHG emissions from peat swamp forest fires for Indonesia’s international reporting; Set of recommendations for reducing GHG emissions from peat swamp forests; Publication of project results in high quality peer-reviewed publications to ensure results are transparent and available for international reporting and verification under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) requirements for result-based payments on emissions reduction.

Peatlands – a major factor in climate change 
Tropical peatlands have incredibly high carbon density and thus their destruction has the potential to contribute significantly to global emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). Indonesia has the largest share of the global tropical peat forest carbon pool (estimated at 65 percent), yet it also experiences the most rapid degradation of peat swamp forests due to strong economic and social pressures for timber and land for agriculture. Clearance and drainage of peat swamp forests over recent decades have resulted in an unprecedented increase in peat fires, with smoke and pollution affecting not only Indonesia, but all of Southeast Asia. Indonesian peat fires released about 15 percent of total global GHG emissions in 1997–1998. Currently emissions from drained and burnt peatlands account for about 5 percent of the global carbon budget each year. However, emissions from peatland fires are currently not included in the official Indonesia report to the UNFCCC because there are no empirical data sets or methodology to measure emissions with sufficient accuracy. This is preventing the economy from moving from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Tier 1 reporting to UNFCCC, which uses default non-specific formulas, to Tier 2, which uses economy-specific calculations. Tier 2 reporting is preferred by most economies, as it is one of the requirements to receive results-based compensation for emissions reduction, such as REDD+ payments. 
Not all peat forests burn equally
When reporting emissions, it is currently assumed that 100 percent of peatland burns during fire. This is grossly inaccurate. Peat fires are generally dominated by smouldering combustions, a flameless form of burning. In contrast to forest or grassland fires, smouldering fires can persist under low temperatures, in moist conditions and with almost no oxygen and, as a result, can burn for weeks or months despite rain or changes in fire weather. Without an extensive body of baseline data identifying patterns in burning behaviour, it is hard to estimate how much of the peatland has burned and how much carbon has been emitted after the fires are extinguished. Fuel loads (including fuel types), area burned (severity and patchiness of the burn), other combustion factors and emission factors (both determined by the fuel type) ultimately determine how much GHG emissions are released in a given burn.
Developing a new methodology
To help Indonesia provide empirical data and calculation methodology, APFNet teamed up with the Indonesian Government’s Forestry and Environment Research Development and Innovation Agency, the Forest Research and Development Center and the University of Melbourne to initiate a new project “Improving capacities towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions from peat swamp forest fires in Indonesia.” A comprehensive literature review will be followed by the development of an experimental design for measuring fuel loads. The experimental field sites will include both intact and degraded peat swamp forests at various stages of degradation and different burn stages (not burned, burned once, twice or three+ times), on two of the largest islands of Indonesia – Kalimantan, close to the city of Palangkaraya at the Tumbang Nusa Research Forest, and the island of Sumatra. The data collected will be analysed to understand the relationship between fire intensity, fuel type, forest degradation stage and emission releases to develop formulas that can calculate emission estimates for any given piece of land that has experienced burns. Using these results, policy recommendations for emission reduction in peat swamp forests will be developed. Finally, through capacity building and publication of research in high-quality, peer-reviewed journals, the methodology will be presented to the Indonesian Government to be formally adopted in their national reporting.

 News and related information

Video of improving Emission Factor of Tropical peat forest fires
Improved Science-Based Estimates on Emissions from Peatland Burning in Indonesia
Indonesia improving official emissions reporting - Thanks to APFNet project
Improving capacities towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions from peat swamp forest fires in Indonesia: forest carbon accounting and emission estimation from peatland fires
Developing a burning interest in peatlands
Indonesia appoints conservationist to save country’s declining peatlands

Loss and Recovery of Carbon in Repeatedly Burned Degraded Peatlands of Kalimantan, Indonesia