Uncertainties, deficiencies and unknowns in greenhouse gas emissions from tropical peatlands

Harri Vasander and Jyrki Jauhiainen

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

carbon-dioxide, dinitrogen-oxide, ghg-fluxes, land-use, methane

Vasander et al. 2008: Uncertainties, deficiencies and unknowns in greenhouse gas emissions


Tropical peat swamp forest forms one of the most efficient carbon-sequestering ecosystems and important carbon stores. Some peatlands, even in natural condition, are in steady-state and no longer accumulating peat. Large areas of tropical peat have been drained, resulting in an abrupt and permanent shift in the ecosystem carbon balance from sink to source.
Several tropical peat carbon store and carbon store change-connected issues are identified as unknowns, and therefore the role of natural peatland as a C sink is not clear. Data on tropical peat carbon exchange is still scattered and often poorly documented. Tropical peatlands are reclaimed faster than records can be updated. Records of land use history, cultivation methodology (drainage depth, use of fire, crops species, etc.) are not well known in reclaimed peatlands, which makes extrapolation of C-store changes difficult. Projections of future carbon emissions from tropical peatlands under different land use scenarios are needed, and actions must be taken. This must lead to the development of best peatland management practices that can reduce carbon loss now and in the future.