Tropical peatlands and their conservation are important in the context of COVID-19 and potential future (zoonotic) disease pandemics.
ABSTRACT: The COVID-19 pandemic has caused global disruption, with the emergence of this and other pandemics having been linked to habitat encroachment and/or wildlife exploitation. High impacts of COVID-19 are apparent in some countries with large tropical peatland areas, some of which are relatively poorly resourced to tackle disease pandemics. Despite this, no previous investigation has considered tropical peatlands in the context of emerging infectious diseases (EIDs). Here, we review: (i) the potential for future EIDs arising from tropical peatlands; (ii) potential threats to tropical peatland conservation and local communities from COVID-19; and (iii) potential steps to help mitigate these risks. We find that high biodiversity in tropical peat-swamp forests, including presence of many potential vertebrate and invertebrate vectors, combined, in places, with high levels of habitat disruption and wildlife harvesting represent suitable conditions for potential zoonotic EID (re-)emergence. Although impossible to predict precisely, we identify numerous potential threats to tropical peatland conservation and local communities from the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes impacts on public health, with the potential for haze pollution from peatland fires to increase COVID-19 susceptibility a noted concern; and on local economies, livelihoods and food security, where impacts will likely be greater in remote communities with limited/no medical facilities that depend heavily on external trade. Research, training, education, conservation and restoration activities are also being affected, particularly those involving physical groupings and international travel, some of which may result in increased habitat encroachment, wildlife harvesting or fire, and may therefore precipitate longer-term negative impacts, including those relating to disease pandemics. We conclude that sustainable management of tropical peatlands and their wildlife is important for mitigating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and reducing the potential for future zoonotic EID emergence and severity, thus strengthening arguments for their conservation and restoration. To support this, we list seven specific recommendations relating to sustainable management of tropical peatlands in the context of COVID-19/disease pandemics, plus mitigating the current impacts of COVID-19 and reducing potential future zoonotic EID risk in these localities. Our discussion and many of the issues raised should also be relevant for non-tropical peatland areas and in relation to other (pandemic-related) sudden socio-economic shocks that may occur in future.
Project description:Large, intact areas of tropical peatland are highly threatened at a global scale by the expansion of commercial agriculture and other forms of economic development. Conserving peatlands on a landscape scale, with their hydrology intact, is of international conservation importance to preserve their distinctive biodiversity and ecosystem services and maintain their resilience to future environmental change. We explored threats to and opportunities for conserving remaining intact tropical peatlands; thus, we excluded peatlands of Indonesia and Malaysia, where extensive deforestation, drainage, and conversion to plantations means conservation in this region can protect only small fragments of the original ecosystem. We focused on a case study, the Pastaza-Marañón Foreland Basin (PMFB) in Peru, which is among the largest known intact tropical peatland landscapes in the world and is representative of peatland vulnerability. Maintenance of the hydrological conditions critical for carbon storage and ecosystem function of peatlands is, in the PMFB, primarily threatened by expansion of commercial agriculture linked to new transport infrastructure that is facilitating access to remote areas. There remain opportunities in the PMFB and elsewhere to develop alternative, more sustainable land-use practices. Although some of the peatlands in the PMFB fall within existing legally protected areas, this protection does not include the most carbon-dense (domed pole forest) areas. New carbon-based conservation instruments (e.g., REDD+, Green Climate Fund), developing markets for sustainable peatland products, transferring land title to local communities, and expanding protected areas offer pathways to increased protection for intact tropical peatlands in Amazonia and elsewhere, such as those in New Guinea and Central Africa which remain, for the moment, broadly beyond the frontier of commercial development.
Project description:Tropical peatlands now emit hundreds of megatons of carbon dioxide per year because of human disruption of the feedbacks that link peat accumulation and groundwater hydrology. However, no quantitative theory has existed for how patterns of carbon storage and release accompanying growth and subsidence of tropical peatlands are affected by climate and disturbance. Using comprehensive data from a pristine peatland in Brunei Darussalam, we show how rainfall and groundwater flow determine a shape parameter (the Laplacian of the peat surface elevation) that specifies, under a given rainfall regime, the ultimate, stable morphology, and hence carbon storage, of a tropical peatland within a network of rivers or canals. We find that peatlands reach their ultimate shape first at the edges of peat domes where they are bounded by rivers, so that the rate of carbon uptake accompanying their growth is proportional to the area of the still-growing dome interior. We use this model to study how tropical peatland carbon storage and fluxes are controlled by changes in climate, sea level, and drainage networks. We find that fluctuations in net precipitation on timescales from hours to years can reduce long-term peat accumulation. Our mathematical and numerical models can be used to predict long-term effects of changes in temporal rainfall patterns and drainage networks on tropical peatland geomorphology and carbon storage.
Project description:Tropical peatlands, which play a crucial role in the maintenance of different ecosystem services, are increasingly drained for agriculture, forestry, peat extraction and human settlement purposes. The present study investigated the differences between natural and drained sites of a tropical peatland in the community structure of soil bacteria and archaea and their potential to perform nitrogen transformation processes. The results indicate significant dissimilarities in the structure of soil bacterial and archaeal communities as well as nirK, nirS, nosZ, nifH and archaeal amoA gene-possessing microbial communities. The reduced denitrification and N2-fixing potential was detected in the drained tropical peatland soil. In undisturbed peatland soil, the N2O emission was primarily related to nirS-type denitrifiers and dissimilatory nitrate reduction to ammonium, while the conversion of N2O to N2 was controlled by microbes possessing nosZ clade I genes. The denitrifying microbial community of the drained site differed significantly from the natural site community. The main reducers of N2O were microbes harbouring nosZ clade II genes in the drained site. Additionally, the importance of DNRA process as one of the controlling mechanisms of N2O fluxes in the natural peatlands of the tropics revealed from the results of the study.
Project description:Northern and tropical peatlands represent a globally significant carbon reserve accumulated over thousands of years of waterlogged conditions. It is unclear whether moderate drying predicted for northern peatlands will stimulate burning and carbon losses as has occurred in their smaller tropical counterparts where the carbon legacy has been destabilized due to severe drainage and deep peat fires. Capitalizing on a unique long-term experiment, we quantify the post-wildfire recovery of a northern peatland subjected to decadal drainage. We show that the moderate drop in water table position predicted for most northern regions triggers a shift in vegetation composition previously observed within only severely disturbed tropical peatlands. The combined impact of moderate drainage followed by wildfire converted the low productivity, moss-dominated peatland to a non-carbon accumulating shrub-grass ecosystem. This new ecosystem is likely to experience a low intensity, high frequency wildfire regime, which will further deplete the legacy of stored peat carbon.
Project description:Industrial agricultural plantations are a rapidly increasing yet largely unmeasured source of tropical land cover change. Here, we evaluate impacts of oil palm plantation development on land cover, carbon flux, and agrarian community lands in West Kalimantan, Indonesian Borneo. With a spatially explicit land change/carbon bookkeeping model, parameterized using high-resolution satellite time series and informed by socioeconomic surveys, we assess previous and project future plantation expansion under five scenarios. Although fire was the primary proximate cause of 1989-2008 deforestation (93%) and net carbon emissions (69%), by 2007-2008, oil palm directly caused 27% of total and 40% of peatland deforestation. Plantation land sources exhibited distinctive temporal dynamics, comprising 81% forests on mineral soils (1994-2001), shifting to 69% peatlands (2008-2011). Plantation leases reveal vast development potential. In 2008, leases spanned ?65% of the region, including 62% on peatlands and 59% of community-managed lands, yet <10% of lease area was planted. Projecting business as usual (BAU), by 2020 ?40% of regional and 35% of community lands are cleared for oil palm, generating 26% of net carbon emissions. Intact forest cover declines to 4%, and the proportion of emissions sourced from peatlands increases 38%. Prohibiting intact and logged forest and peatland conversion to oil palm reduces emissions only 4% below BAU, because of continued uncontrolled fire. Protecting logged forests achieves greater carbon emissions reductions (21%) than protecting intact forests alone (9%) and is critical for mitigating carbon emissions. Extensive allocated leases constrain land management options, requiring trade-offs among oil palm production, carbon emissions mitigation, and maintaining community landholdings.
Project description:Glacial-interglacial variations in CO2 and methane in polar ice cores have been attributed, in part, to changes in global wetland extent, but the wetland distribution before the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM, 21 ka to 18 ka) remains virtually unknown. We present a study of global peatland extent and carbon (C) stocks through the last glacial cycle (130 ka to present) using a newly compiled database of 1,063 detailed stratigraphic records of peat deposits buried by mineral sediments, as well as a global peatland model. Quantitative agreement between modeling and observations shows extensive peat accumulation before the LGM in northern latitudes (>40°N), particularly during warmer periods including the last interglacial (130 ka to 116 ka, MIS 5e) and the interstadial (57 ka to 29 ka, MIS 3). During cooling periods of glacial advance and permafrost formation, the burial of northern peatlands by glaciers and mineral sediments decreased active peatland extent, thickness, and modeled C stocks by 70 to 90% from warmer times. Tropical peatland extent and C stocks show little temporal variation throughout the study period. While the increased burial of northern peats was correlated with cooling periods, the burial of tropical peat was predominately driven by changes in sea level and regional hydrology. Peat burial by mineral sediments represents a mechanism for long-term terrestrial C storage in the Earth system. These results show that northern peatlands accumulate significant C stocks during warmer times, indicating their potential for C sequestration during the warming Anthropocene.
Project description:Freshwater peatlands are carbon accumulating ecosystems where primary production exceeds organic matter decomposition rates in the soil, and therefore perform an important sink function in global carbon cycling. Typical peatland plant and microbial communities are adapted to the waterlogged, often acidic and low nutrient conditions that characterise them. Peatlands in coastal locations receive inputs of oceanic base cations that shift conditions from the environmental optimum of these communities altering the carbon balance. Blanket bogs are one such type of peatlands occurring in hyperoceanic regions. Using a blanket bog to coastal marsh transect in Northwest Scotland we assess the impacts of salt intrusion on carbon accumulation rates. A threshold concentration of salt input, caused by inundation, exists corresponding to rapid acidophilic to halophilic plant community change and a carbon accumulation decline. For the first time, we map areas of blanket bog vulnerable to sea-level rise, estimating that this equates to ~7.4% of the total extent and a 0.22?Tg yr(-1) carbon sink. Globally, tropical peatlands face the proportionally greatest risk with ~61,000?km(2) (~16.6% of total) lying ?5?m elevation. In total an estimated 20.2?±?2.5 GtC is stored in peatlands ?5?m above sea level, which are potentially vulnerable to inundation.
Project description:A large portion of the global carbon pool is stored in peatlands, which are sensitive to a changing environment conditions. The hydrological loss of dissolved organic carbon (DOC) is believed to play a key role in determining the carbon balance in peatlands. Zoige peatland, the largest peat store in China, is experiencing climatic warming and drying as well as experiencing severe artificial drainage. Using a fully crossed factorial design, we experimentally manipulated temperature and controlled the water tables in large mesocosms containing intact peat monoliths. Specifically, we determined the impact of warming and water table position on the hydrological loss of DOC, the exported amounts, concentrations and qualities of DOC, and the discharge volume in Zoige peatland. Our results revealed that of the water table position had a greater impact on DOC export than the warming treatment, which showed no interactive effects with the water table treatment. Both DOC concentration and discharge volume were significantly increased when water table drawdown, while only the DOC concentration was significantly promoted by warming treatment. Annual DOC export was increased by 69% and 102% when the water table, controlled at 0 cm, was experimentally lowered by -10 cm and -20 cm. Increases in colored and aromatic constituents of DOC (measured by Abs(254 nm), SUVA(254 nm), Abs(400 nm), and SUVA(400 nm)) were observed under the lower water tables and at the higher peat temperature. Our results provide an indication of the potential impacts of climatic change and anthropogenic drainage on the carbon cycle and/or water storage in a peatland and simultaneously imply the likelihood of potential damage to downstream ecosystems. Furthermore, our results highlight the need for local protection and sustainable development, as well as suggest that more research is required to better understand the impacts of climatic change and artificial disturbances on peatland degradation.
Project description:Northern peatlands represent one of the largest biospheric carbon (C) reservoirs; however, the role of peatlands in the global carbon cycle remains intensely debated, owing in part to the paucity of detailed regional datasets and the complexity of the role of climate, ecosystem processes, and environmental factors in controlling peatland C dynamics. Here we used detailed C accumulation data from four peatlands and a compilation of peatland initiation ages across Alaska to examine Holocene peatland dynamics and climate sensitivity. We find that 75% of dated peatlands in Alaska initiated before 8,600 years ago and that early Holocene C accumulation rates were four times higher than the rest of the Holocene. Similar rapid peatland expansion occurred in West Siberia during the Holocene thermal maximum (HTM). Our results suggest that high summer temperature and strong seasonality during the HTM in Alaska might have played a major role in causing the highest rates of C accumulation and peatland expansion. The rapid peatland expansion and C accumulation in these vast regions contributed significantly to the peak of atmospheric methane concentrations in the early Holocene. Furthermore, we find that Alaskan peatlands began expanding much earlier than peatlands in other regions, indicating an important contribution of these peatlands to the pre-Holocene increase in atmospheric methane concentrations.
Project description:Tropical peatlands in Indonesia have been disturbed over decades and are a source of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere by peat respiration and peatland fire. With a portable solar spectrometer, we have performed measurements of column-averaged CO2 dry-air molar mixing ratios, XCO2, in Palangka Raya, Indonesia, and quantify the emission dynamics of the peatland with use of the data for weather, fire hotspot, ground water table, local airport operation visibility and weather radar images. Total emission of CO2 from surface and underground peat fires as well as from peatland ecosystem is evaluated by day-to-day variability of XCO2. We found that the peatland fire and the net ecosystem CO2 exchange contributed with the same order of magnitude to the CO2 emission during the non-El Niño Southern Oscillation year of July 2014-August 2015.