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Community / Land projects / Enhancing the benefits of tropical peatland restoration for supporting local communities and ecosystem process

Enhancing the benefits of tropical peatland restoration for supporting local communities and ecosystem process


08/17 - 11/19


This project is part of


There is a requirement to feed a rapidly growing human population whilst maintaining ecosystem services and reducing biodiversity losses. Across the world, previously extensive tracts of natural habitats have been degraded by human activities, with detrimental impacts for biodiversity and soils, and for the livelihoods of local communities living in these landscapes. Indonesia's forests are extremely biologically diverse but this hyper-diversity is threatened due to widespread loss of rainforest. Peat swamp forests contain particularly large stores of carbon and support unique flora and fauna not occurring elsewhere, but have been drained and degraded to make way for agriculture, threatening wildlife and releasing large amounts of carbon into the atmosphere from loss of trees and soil. Much of this recent forest loss is due to conversion to oil palm plantations, which provide important sources of local incomes, although drained peatlands produce many ecosystem disservices (e.g. bare land and soil with low/no agricultural value, poor air quality). Thus there are moves to rehabilitate degraded peatlands with a focus on reducing emissions, but potential co-benefits (and risks) of restoration for biodiversity and consequences for local communities whose livelihoods are dependent on agriculture are not well understood. The aim of this project is to understand the consequences of draining peatlands for biodiversity and local livelihoods, and to examine different scenarios for prioritising peatlands for restoration, according to biodiversity and emissions considerations and local community benefits and trade-offs. Restoration of degraded peat forest and re-wetting of drained areas may remove agricultural areas from production thereby reducing small holder farmer incomes and food. Moreover, decisions about sites to restore need to be compatible with systems of local governance, land rights and devolved administrations, and require the identification of alternative livelihood options for communities in restored habitats. The size and degree of connectivity of forest areas is also important for maintaining population networks of species in degraded landscapes, and for promoting the responses of biodiversity to climate change, and so decisions about peatland locations for restoration also need to include consideration of connectivity and adaptation of species to climate change. The issues we will address in this multi-disciplinary project will have a direct impact on local communities living in Indonesian peatland landscapes but the wider issues of balancing environmental, biodiversity and local community needs in multi-functional landscapes will be of broad generic importance.


The Newton Fund builds research and innovation partnerships with developing countries across the world to promote the economic development and social welfare of the partner countries.

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