#01 Biodiversity
Mohammad Rayan

Peat swamp forests for biodiversity and climate change

Deforestation currently accounts for about 20 % of worldwide greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions according to the IFCCC. Current annual emissions from deforestation are comparable to the total annual emissions of the USA or China. A UK government study, the Eliasch Review, concluded in October 2008 that “a future international deal on climate change that provides international forest financing could not only reduce carbon emissions significantly, but also benefit developing countries, support poverty reduction and help biodiversity and other forest services.” In addition to deforestation, land degradation (from forest conversion and forest fires) is also contributing significantly to global warming. Forest fires are annual natural disasters in Indonesia. And 15 % of all forest fires happen in peat swamp forests. These fires contribute 60-90 % of all the smoke produced by fires.

Why Indonesia?

Peat swamp forests in Indonesia encompass an area around 300 times the size of Singapore, somewhere between 16 to 20 million hectares. These Indonesian peat swamp forests account for 50 % of all tropical peat swamps and 10.8 % of all land in Indonesia. Scientifically peat swamp forests store more carbon than a natural forest, a clear indication of their importance in mitigating global warming and climate change. This huge carbon sink is very fragile and vulnerable to disruptions such as deforestation and degradation. These may take the form of illegal logging, forest conversion, dryness, subsidence, forest fire and overuse.

The Merang REDD Pilot Project (MRPP) is designed to prevent deforestation and degradation of the last remaining peat swamp forests in South Sumatra, Merang, and the Musi Banyuasin District in Indonesia.

Timber on a river in Merang peat swamp forest

Why in Merang?

In South Sumatra, the Merang Peat Swamp Forest area (MPSF) is a promising location for such a pilot project since its forest cover is still relatively intact and its peat serves as a large below-ground carbon sink. It is also in a suitable location, since it is connected to the protected areas of Sembilang National Park in South Sumatra and Berbak National Park in Jambi.

Map of the Merang Peat Swamp Forest

The project area is one of the most biodiverse in the world and in a place where illegal logging is rampant. One estimate suggests that within 2-5 years (without the MRPP project), most of the natural forest will have fallen victim to illegal logging.

The project, encompassing 24,000 hectares, is designed to address the number one cause of deforestation in Indonesia —illegal logging. It will also combat agricultural encroachment.

The project will benefit biodiversity and improve watershed quality and living conditions for the surrounding villagers.

Project Setting

The proposal for the Merang REDD Pilot Project (MRPP) was based on support studies financed by the EU South Sumatra Forest Fire Management Project (SSFFMP) in 2008, implemented by the GTZ in cooperation with the District and Provincial Forestry Agencies and Ministry of Forestry. The German Federal Ministry of Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) accepted the proposal and agreed to finance the MRPP project with a grant from 2008 to 2011. The Ministry of Forestry in Indonesia is the executing agency and has named implementing agencies to conduct the actual project: the Musi Banyuasin District Forestry Agency and the South Sumatra Provincial Forestry Agency in cooperation with the Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ) GmbH in Indonesia.

The project area recommended by the Regent of the Musi Banyuasin District covers an area of 24,000 hectares in the Peat Swamp Production Forests of Merang Kepayang, administratively located in the Bayung Lencir Sub-district in the Musi Banyuasin (MUBA) District.

People working at a reforestation site

Initial project activities started in October 2008. The SSFFMP was very helpful in facilitating a smooth transition and kick-off to the Merang Project. This substantially reduced the set-up and adaptation periods. The villages surrounding the project area had already received alternative livelihood training to enable them to give up illegal logging.

At the core of the project, the GTZ is supporting the Ministry of Forestry and the District of Musi Banyuasin in setting up its Forest Management Unit (FMU), and in the development process and REDD readiness activities on local level. Through the FMU the project is developing a concept for managing and protecting biodiversity and the carbon sink in the Merang Peat Swamp Forest. Project activities include institutional development of the FMU, developing carbon and biodiversity monitoring capacities, the rehabilitation of degraded areas and community development activities. FMU development is geared towards participatory management approaches to benefit local communities and the environment with its valuable unique biodiversity.