Utilising non-timber forest products to conserve Indonesia’s peat swamp forests and reduce carbon emissions
Degradation and conversion of peat swamp forests of Sumatra and Kalimantan has led to enhanced CO2 emissions and contributed to Indonesia being a major emitter of greenhouse gases. Drainage of peatland not only increases oxidation and fire risk, but leads to soil subsidence and undrainable conditions. 7 Mha of peatland on Sumatra and Kalimantan are licensed for plantation crops such as oil palm and Acacia that require drainage and contribute to CO2 emissions and subsidence. Planting useful peat swamp forest species that do not require drainage in a ‘paludiculture’ (swamp cultivation) programme could provide an economically attractive and sustainable alternative.1376 plant species have been recorded in lowland Southeast Asian peat swamp forests. 534 (38.8%) species have a known use, for timber (222 species), medicine (221), food (165, e.g. fruits, nuts, oils) and other uses (165, e.g. latex, fuel, dyes). Many have multiple uses and 81 non-timber forest product species have a reported ‘major economic use’. An initial economic assessment indicates that based on returns, some indigenous peat swamp forest species are potentially competitive with oil palm and Acacia. Swamp jelutung (Dyera polyphylla) is an attractive alternative for local communities as the return on labour is greater than for oil palm.