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Tropical peat

Tropical peat is a type of histosol that found in tropical latitude, including South East Asia, Africa, and Central and South America.[1] Tropical peat mostly consists of dead organic matter from trees instead of spaghnum which are commonly found in temperate peat.[2] This soil usually contain high organic matter content, exceeding 75% with dry low bulk density around 0.2 mg/m3 (0.0 gr/cu ft).[3]

Areas of tropical peat are found mostly in South East Asia (about 70% by area) although are also found in Africa, Central and South America and elsewhere around the Pacific Ocean. Tropical peatlands are significant carbon sinks and store large amounts of carbon and their destruction can significantly impact on the amount of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Tropical peatlands are vulnerable to destabilisation through human and climate induced changes. Estimates of the area (and hence volume) of tropical peatland vary but a reasonable estimate is in the region of 380,000 square kilometres (150,000 sq mi).

Although tropical peatlands only cover about 0.25% of the Earth's land surface they contain 50,000-70,000 million tonnes of carbon (about 3% global soil carbon). In addition, tropical peatlands support diverse ecosystems and are home to a number of endangered species including the Orangutan.

The native peat swamp forests contain a number of valuable timber-producing trees plus a range of other products of value to local communities, such as bark, resins and latex. Land-use changes and fire, mainly associated with plantation development and logging (deforestation and drainage), are reducing this carbon store and contributing to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The problems that result from development of tropical peatland stem mainly from a lack of understanding of the complexities of this ecosystem and the fragility of the relationship between peat and forest. Once the forest is removed and the peat is drained, the surface peat oxidises and loses stored carbon rapidly to the atmosphere (as carbon dioxide). This results in progressive loss of the peat surface, leading to local flooding and, due to the large areas involved, global climate change. Failure to account for such emissions results in underestimates of the rate of increase in atmospheric GHGs and the extent of human induced climate change.

See also


  1. ^ Wu, Yuanqiao; Chan, Ed; Melton, Joe R.; Verseghy, Diana L. (2017-07-13). "A map of global peatland distribution created using machine learning for use in terrestrial ecosystem and earth system models". Geoscientific Model Development Discussions: 1–21. doi:10.5194/gmd-2017-152. ISSN 1991-959X.
  2. ^ Rieley, J. O. (1996). "The extent and nature of tropical peat swamps". Tropical Lowland Peatlands of Southeast Asia. Proceedings of a Workshop on Integrated Planning and Management of Tropical Lowland Peatlands Held at Cisarua, Indonesia, 3–8 July 1992. IUCN, Gland Switzerland.
  3. ^ Deboucha, S.; Hashim, R.; Alwi, A. (2008). "Engineering properties of stabilized tropical peat soils". UM Research Repository. University of Malaya. Retrieved 2018-11-02.

External links