"The error we have had in the past is sometimes thinking that only intact forest is worth doing anything about," said Boucher. When land was distributed or cleared, there were few efforts to protect it or restore it, but this indicates there could still be great value in protecting such lands, he said.
Koh recommends that future monitoring work be targeted on Indonesia's West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan and Riau provinces, which contain the largest peatland areas that still a retain a third or more of their original peat forests. This satellite mapping approach could also be applied to other areas that are being targeted for oil-palm development, such as Papua New Guinea, Liberia and Cameroon, he said.
This study is also the first to estimate regionwide biodiversity loss that results from converting peatlands to oil palm plantations. By predicting the proportion of the current pool of bird species that will likely be lost due to land-use change and multiplying the number of known species in each region, the authors developed a rough sketch of the actual biodiversity loss in each area in terms of numbers of species.
Daniel Murdiyarso, a scientist at the Indonesia-based Center for International Forestry Research, called the work "timely" as the global mechanism for international forest conservation work is being promoted across Southeast Asia. The study "also signifies the importance of other services of tropical peatlands in sequestering carbon and [as the] home of uniquely diverse flora and fauna," he said.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500