Amplifying Drought Severity from Human Modified Peat Forest Under Changing Climate

Peatland transformation in Indonesia through intense forest clearing and drainage has caused immense ecological and environment impacts. Most research highlighted increased carbon emission in the region through drought and largeā€scale fires, further accelerating peatland degradation.

However human activities on peatland can severely alter the hydrological balance and increase the severity of drought. Here we quantified drought severity due to this transformation under current and future climate scenarios. We report a doubling of moisture stress due to forest conversion to plantation across peatlands in the region. Furthermore, human activities accelerated groundwater drought.

Our results indicate that human activity through land-use change and canalisation has amplified the severity, and has caused more frequent drought. Landscape analysis reveals that peatlands in Sumatra are more drought-prone than those in Kalimantan. Even some areas will receive higher rainfall under future climate, Indonesian peatland remains at high risk. Rehabilitating the hydrological function of peatland remains the only viable option for plantation use. – M. Taufik, IPB University | Featuring image.

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