Impacts of land-use change on functioning of ecosystems: Learning from peatlands about measures to boost peat fertility

Dr. Shailendra Mishra | Asian School of the Environment, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.


Palm oil is the world’s most important vegetable oil in terms of production quantity. Indonesia, the world’s largest palm-oil producer, plans to double its production by 2020, with unclear implications for the other national priorities of food (rice) production, forest and biodiversity protection, and carbon conservation. The meteoric expansion of oil-palm agriculture in Southeast Asia and other tropical regions is testament to an almost insatiable global demand for palm oil. Oil palm has contributed greatly to regional, national, and local economies.

However, this intensive agriculture has impacts on its sustainability mainly due to following reasons: (i) peatlands under agriculture is undergoing oxidation, leading to physical peat loss called subsidence, which would increase the flooding risk and also the load of synthetic chemicals in the form of fertilizers due to loss of nutrients from peat (ii) peat oxidation will also result in greenhouse gases that contributes to the overall climate change scenario. Therefore, more scientific knowledge is crucially needed to eliminate this scenario, reduce peat loss and improve the sustainability of agriculture in these peatlands, with negligible compromise on the
commercial output.

In this talk, I would like to share some science-based ecological innovations that has been developed for deployment in existing peat agricultural field sites. We used metagenomic approaches to determine the functional potential of peat microbiome associated with peat oxidation. Metagenomics analysis revealed that genes belonging to aromatic compound biosynthesis and degradations were mostly associated with degraded forest and degraded land. Actinobacteria and Firmicutes were among the most abundant taxonomic groups, demonstrating their linkages in oxidation of tropical peatlands. Our data mining approaches revealed (i) how we can boost peat beneficial microflora to increase the peat fertility; (ii) to test the influence of mixed cropping for peat sustainability and fertility for a longer period; (iii) to
deploy innovative rapid and thermophilic composting method to improve peat structure and fertility. In summary, this talk will pronounce the importance of expanding the knowledge of microbiome approaches in establishing how the microbiota within the peat ecosystem could be ecologically exploited for restoration and conservation of degraded peatlands.

About me:

Dr. Shailendra Mishra has been working in the area of peatland research since 2009. He uses genomics-derived framework to explain the complexity of below-ground ecosystems by combining meta-omics (metagenomics and metabolomics) with associated metadata (geochemical and physiological data) using multivariate statistical methods. His research interest in the peatland ecosystem is aimed at developing an in-depth understanding of peat-oxidation processes due to
microbiome functioning, which leads to high greenhouse gas emissions from tropical peatlands. Currently, he is working as a Research Scientist (Fellow) under Prof David Wardle’s group at Asian School of the Environment, Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, where he aims to understand the linkages of below- and above-ground processes in tropical peatlands across SE
Asian region.

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