Extensive degradation of Indonesian peatlands by deforestation, drainage and recurrent fires causes release of huge amounts of peat soil carbon to the atmosphere. Construction of drainage canals is associated with conversion to other land uses, especially plantations of oil palm and pulpwood trees, and with widespread illegal logging to facilitate timber transport. A lowering of the groundwater level leads to an increase in oxidation and subsidence of peat. Therefore, the groundwater level is the main control on carbon dioxide emissions from peatlands. Restoring the peatland hydrology is the only way to prevent peat oxidation and mitigate CO2 emissions. In this study we present a strategy for improved planning of rewetting measures by dam constructions. The study area is a vast peatland with limited accessibility in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Field inventory and remote sensing data are used to generate a detailed 3D model of the peat dome and a hydrological model predicts the rise in groundwater levels once dams have been constructed. 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. This equates to 6% of the carbon dioxide emissions by civil aviation in the European Union in 2006 and can be achieved with relatively small efforts and at low costs. The proposed methodology allows a detailed planning of hydrological restoration of peatlands with interesting impacts on carbon trading for the voluntary carbon market.
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