Characteristics of natural tropical peatland and their influence on C flux in Loagan Bunut National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia

Lulie Melling, Kah Joo Goh, Ryusuke Hatano, Lah Jau Uyo, Alex Sayok and Abdul Rahim Nik

After Wise Use – The Future of Peatlands, Proceedings of the 13th International Peat Congress: Tropical Peatlands

biosequence, carbon-fluxes, tropical-peatland

Melling et al. 2008: Characteristics of natural tropical peatland


Tropical peat swamp forest (PSF), being a unique dual ecosystem, i.e. tropical rainforest and tropical peatland, is highly influenced by the characteristics and nature of the latter. For tropical peatland, vegetation is both a biotic and parent material in the peat-forming factors. Elemental composition of peat soil differs from that of geological materials in its striking enrichment of carbon and nitrogen compounds relative to most rocks. The organic compounds of the plants are the ultimate sources of the large amount of C and N sequestered in the natural peatland. Thus different forest types that live on the tropical peatland influence the peat properties and are themselvesinfluencedbythepeatproperties.Tropicalpeatlandhasbeenvariouslyclaimedtobebothacarbonsink and source to the atmosphere and may contribute to global warming. These bipolar roles of tropical peatland are probably the result of site-specific composition of vegetation, the chemical properties of the peat and environmental factors, above and below ground. However, the quantification of the effects of these factors on carbon fluxes and the dominant conditions that cause it to switch from a carbon sink to a source are still uncertain.