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It is estimated that Indonesia is home to 36% of the world’s peatlands, and therefore contains some of the largest below-ground stores of carbon on the planet. According to the IUCN, the earth’s peatlands store more carbon than all other vegetation types in the world combined. That’s why the health of peatlands is so fundamental to climate change. As peatland is degraded, these crucial stores of carbon are released, and today peat fires contribute to about 10% of GHG emissions from the land use sector. In Indonesia specifically, peatland fires in 2015 emitted more daily emissions than the entire US economy.

The Sumatra Merang Peatland Project (SMPP) works to protect and restore 22,934 hectares of degraded peatland in the Merang Biodiversity Zone in Indonesia. Timber extraction, illegal logging and the expansion of commercial agriculture in the region have disrupted the natural hydrology of the peatlands and caused the peat to dry out, making it much more vulnerable to fires. Therefore, a key strategy of the project is to restore water table levels to ensure the project area returns to a wetland habitat. A network of engineered peatland compaction dams have been constructed to prevent the outflow of water and in 2020, important progress was made with 91 additional dams built for a total of 204 placed throughout the project area.

Innovations in landscape monitoring

SMPP is also testing new impact monitoring technology to assess restoration impact which is improving how restoration is monitored, managed and verified. This technology hinges on a central dashboard that receives project area data from satellites and Internet of Things (IoT) sensors, such as water table level sensors and cameras. For example, 90 dip well sensors, 70 of which were installed in October 2020, work to measure water table levels across the project area while infrared smoke detection cameras are providing early warning notifications to mobilise a rapid response to forest fires. 

This data, sent via long-range WiFi to the project dashboard, allows project staff and auditors to track regeneration across the peatland ecosystem in real time from anywhere in the world. This technology can support a scale-up of conservation and restoration efforts across the world by bringing greater transparency and accountability to the sector.

We’re happy to report that this innovation earned Forest Carbon a Yale Innovation Prize, which is further detailed in the production of a video demonstrating how the tech enables remote impact monitoring and auditing.

Financed by the sale of carbon credits to Ecosphere+ clients, project activities at SMPP are delivering measurable restoration outcomes in a critically threatened region here in South Sumatra. The project is a leading example of how natural climate solutions can help us achieve our climate goals, and how technology innovations have the potential to scale up the protection of threatened ecosystems and biodiversity to make a real and lasting impact.

SMPP is implemented by Forest Carbon and Global Alam Lestari and represented by Ecosphere+. To incorporate this project into your strategy, get in touch.