Peatlands are one of the most important ecosystems on Earth for capturing and storing carbon. The Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is playing a key role in efforts to ensure their protection, delegates attending an event on the sidelines of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow heard.
Of the 10 ASEAN nations, Indonesia has the largest area of tropical peatlands in the world and the fourth largest extent of peatland overall, at over 20 million hectares. Its peatland landscapes hold an estimated 57.4 gigatonnes or 65 percent of ASEAN’s total peatland carbon. Malaysia is next, holding around 9.1 Gt or 10 percent of the total.
Peat, the accumulation of leaves, branches and other parts of vegetation that are kept intact through immersion in water, is more commonly known as a “swamp” or “bog.” Over centuries, this accumulation can become meters deep, storing massive amounts of carbon that would otherwise have been emitted to the atmosphere through decay or burning. In total, Southeast Asia’s tropical peat volume is estimated to be over 1,300 cubic gigameters or 77 percent of global tropical volume. The region’s peat carbon pool is estimated at 68.5 gigatonnes, representing 11 to 14 percent of global peat carbon.