University of Leicester
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Anthropogenic impacts on lowland tropical peatland biogeochemistry

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journal contribution
posted on 2022-08-23, 11:20 authored by Susan Page, Shailendra Mishra, Fahmuddin Agus, Gusti Anshari, Greta Dargie, Stephanie Evers, Jyrki Jauhiainen, Adi Jaya, Antonio Jonay Jovani-Sancho, Ari Lauren, Sofie Sjogersten, Ifo Averti Suspense, Lahiru S Wijedasa, Chris D Evans

Tropical peatlands store around one-sixth of the global peatland carbon pool (105 gigatonnes), equivalent to 30% of the carbon held in rainforest vegetation. Deforestation, drainage, fire and conversion to agricultural land threaten these ecosystems and their role in carbon sequestration. In this Review, we discuss the biogeochemistry of tropical peatlands and the impacts of ongoing anthropogenic modifications. Extensive peatlands are found in Southeast Asia, the Congo Basin and Amazonia, but their total global area remains unknown owing to inadequate data. Anthropogenic transformations result in high carbon loss and reduced carbon storage, increased greenhouse gas emissions, loss of hydrological integrity and peat subsidence accompanied by an enhanced risk of flooding. Moreover, the resulting nutrient storage and cycling changes necessitate fertilizer inputs to sustain crop production, further disturbing the ecosystem and increasing greenhouse gas emissions. Under a warming climate, these impacts are likely to intensify, with both disturbed and intact peat swamps at risk of losing 20% of current carbon stocks by 2100. Improved measurement and observation of carbon pools and fluxes, along with process-based biogeochemical knowledge, is needed to support management strategies, protect tropical peatland carbon stocks and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.


SUSTAINPEAT project (‘Overcoming barriers to sustainable livelihoods and environments in smallholder agricultural systems on tropical peatland’), funded by United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) via the Global Challenges Research Fund and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), grant number BB/P023533/1.

Ministry of Research Technology and Higher Education of Indonesia (RISTEKDIKTI)

CongoPeat project, funded by UKRI via the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), grant number NE/R016860/1.

SUNRISE project (‘Sustainable use of natural resources to improve human health and support economic development’) via NERC, grant number NE/R000131/1.

TROPDEC project (‘Tropical peat decomposition under land use change: adaptation to resources and conditions’) funded by the Academy of Finland, project identifier 310194.


Author affiliation

School of Geography, Geology and Environment, University of Leicester


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

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Nature Reviews Earth & Environment






Nature Research



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