Human-induced changes in Indonesian peatlands increase drought severity

M. Taufik, B. Minasny, A. B. McBratney, J. C. van Dam, P. D. Jones, H. A. J. van Lanen

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Indonesian peatlands are critical to the global carbon cycle, but they also support a large number of local economies. Intense forest clearing and draining in these peatlands is causing severe ecological and environmental impacts. Most studies highlighted increased carbon emission in the region through drought and large-scale fires, further accelerating peatland degradation. Yet, little is known about the long-term impacts of human-induced disturbance on peatland hydrology in the tropics. Here we show that converting natural peat forests to plantations can significantly alter the hydrological system far worse than previously recognized, leading to amplified moisture stress and drought severity. This study quantified how human-induced changes to Indonesian peatlands have affected drought severity. Through field observations and modelling, we demonstrate that canalization doubled drought severity; logging and starting plantations even quadrupled drought severity. Recognizing the importance of peatlands to Indonesia, proper management, and rehabilitating peatlands remain the only viable option for continued plantation use.
Original languageEnglish
Article number084013
Number of pages10
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


  • canalization
  • drought amplification
  • hydrological drought
  • land-use change
  • peat degradation

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