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Jaenicke, Julia (2010): 3D modelling and monitoring of Indonesian peatlands aiming at global climate change mitigation. Dissertation, LMU München: Fakultät für Biologie



Tropical peat swamp forests in Indonesia are highly threatened ecosystems. As a result of economic development during the past two decades, they have been subjected to intensive logging, drainage and conversion to plantation estates, especially for oil palm. The Indonesian peatlands are one of the largest near-surface reserves of terrestrial organic carbon. However, ongoing rapid peat decomposition due to drainage and attendant recurrent fires have recently caused the release of huge amounts of this carbon into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. If these large emissions from degrading peatlands are taken into account, Indonesia is one of the largest emitters of CO2 worldwide. Within the context of the ongoing discussions concerning climate change, the importance of peatlands as carbon stores is increasingly recognised by the public, accompanied by a demand for conservation and restoration. Therefore, this thesis utilises innovative geospatial 3D modelling and remote sensing techniques to study the Indonesian peatlands with the overall aim of global climate change mitigation. Previous estimates of the total amount of carbon stored in the Indonesian peatlands could be improved by applying 3D modelling based on a combined analysis of satellite imagery and in situ peat thickness measurements. At least 55±10 Gt of carbon are stored in Indonesia’s peatlands. With this huge carbon storage and the current rate of degradation, the tropical peatlands of Indonesia have the power to negatively influence the global climate. Large-scale peatland restoration is needed to prevent further greenhouse gas emissions. This thesis shows that successful rewetting of a 590 km² large area of drained peat swamp forest could result in mitigated emissions of 1.4-1.6 Mt CO2 yearly, and can be achieved with relatively little effort and at low costs. Multitemporal radar satellite imagery proved to be capable of monitoring the effect of hydrological restoration measures on peat soil moisture and groundwater levels in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Satellite remote sensing allows continuous large-scale tropical peatland monitoring, compared to only punctual, temporally limited field measurements. This is particularly important for initiatives aiming at carbon trading on the voluntary carbon market or under the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) mechanism, which both constitute significant financing schemes for conservation and rehabilitation of Indonesia’s peatlands.