Understanding the nature of peatlands is crucial to resolving Indonesia’s forest fires crisis. Indonesia’s coastal peatlands have formed over the past several thousand years in tidal mangrove swamps, building up new, low-lying land comprising peat up to 15 meters deep.
There are also shallower inland peat areas, formed as part of swamp forest ecosystems. Draining, clearing and planting on both kinds of peatland dries it out and makes it prone to fire. It also causes it to collapse (subside), making it prone to flooding.
In coastal areas, where peatlands have built up on a base that is at or below sea level, hundreds of thousands of hectares of pulp and oil palm plantations planted on peat will become economically useless as these areas sink below sea level in the coming decades.
This has huge economic and social implications for provinces such as Riau. <...