Peatland, Congo, Indonesia discussed on Morning Edition


Year the bras Ville declaration was agreed to help protect the area. And so I'm Lewis who led the discovery has been given nearly five million dollars of research funding to build up a detailed picture of the expanse. They're a treasure trove by diversity with some of the highest densities of lowland gorillas in the world. Living in swamp. Very high densities of forest elephants and the rest of diversity of the smaller animals. We don't know very much about. These are really unexplored region. So this probably huge variety of endemic fish and also small plans, but we don't really know anything about those because this is an area that we're just beginning to explore and it is a vast area, which is also unusual in terms of the footprint of humanity's behavior. Yeah. These swamps up pretty inhospitable environments for people, and they're really intact into the huge area. The area we MAC of peatland. That's permanently underwater is around one hundred forty five thousand square kilometers. So to put that in context, roughly the size of England is extraordinary to think of that amount to explore now, you came on the program a couple of years ago, we're gonna put a link on the website. You gave a wonderful description you and you'll call Greta dog of finding this area and exploring it, but you since then you've got a huge amounts of money to go back and really dig into it in a meaningful way when we'd put the numbers together. And we did field work and used satellite data to extrapolate. We saw the north area of forested peatland, but we didn't know very much more about it apart from our central estimate was there was about thirty billion tons of carbon locked up in the Pete, and that's round three years worth of fossil fuel emissions of the entire globe. So really important to keep it there. If we're going to meet climate change commitments. Now, we have a big uncertainty on that he could be much lower than that could be much higher than that centrist. So we really need to understand a bit more about it to more feel work. Explore more areas across the enormous. Region. And then if we want to influence policy about what happens to this region that we need to not only know that it's there and carbon stored and how big it is. But we also need to understand how it functions. So is that Cobb and stable what happens if people go in and log it what happens if people go in and start trying to do agriculture. What's going to happen to the bite of us can happen to the carbon? So we have a interdisciplinary team ranging from ecologists who study the past. So we want to know how this peeling formed in the first place and it began forming around ten thousand years ago, and then slowly pitas been accumulating carbon. It's been taken out of the atmosphere. And then we need to understand better about the distribution of carbonated distribution of the swamp over the central Congo basin. Twin expeditions over a wide area. And then we need really detailed understanding of the processes, so. How much common is coming from the atmosphere into the trees? And then how common is then being transferred into the into the Pete into the carbon in the soil and to do that we have detailed measurements every month. We have people going into this warmth to make these measurements. So it's a fairly continuous. Monitoring. We need to understand not just when I've been there in the dry season when you can easily walk on the peatland we need to go in in the west season. And see what it's like then. So we get a picture of the whole annual cycle. And then we can use this data to build a mathematical representation of appeal, and so we need to build a simulation of the peatland inside the computer. I mean, it sort of goes to the heart of all this biodiversity stuff. We're talking about in the program that knowledge is so important you actually have to go there and do very tedious possibly sometimes even difficult measurements. But that's the only way, you know. What's to preserve? Yeah. We're scientists we have to make measurements. We have to observe the real world as we see it. And then we have to try and understand it and understand the processes to then build our simulation in the computer. And that is sensual because if for example is the climate changes, we need to know if that Cobb and the stool. Is stable and we can only do that. If we build a version of a simplified version of this peatlands inside global climate change models to see the impacts simile. If government policy is to start having logging concessions on some of these peelings, we need to know what happens when you start to build roads through them. How do you affect the flows of water in his reading could you kill Jerry's of peatland by building roads in the region. And we can only do that. If we have these measurements on the ground to start with the description, you gave us time was of this sort of untouched area. But there are people there, but it would be that kind of development that would change things. How true is that rich description is actually their development going on? It is very on isolated remote and currently intact ecosystem, and there are very small numbers of people living because there's not much dry land for people to live on. And then most people official folk in a us. Using the peatlands in a sustainable manner. But once we publish the map, lots of people started contacting me saying did I know about this plan for the future or this other plan for the future. Whether it was potential logging concessions in the Democratic Republic, Congo oil exploration concessions and plantations for oil palm in the Republic of Congo. Now, what we've seen in the tropics in another large area of peatland in Indonesia has been an environmental disaster. On Indonesia's recognizes environmental disaster because they have drained peatlands is enormous carbon emissions and in the dry season. When it's very dry, the catch fire, and when it's really dry like years like in two thousand fifteen sixteen there was fire across Indonesia that led to Hoffa million people going to Austin across the region with spiritually problems now then trying to re wet there peelings to stop those negative environmental problems and to slow down the damage this being done and in Congo Republican Congo Democratic Republic, there's a chance to do things really differently. But that's where by scientists and the wider international community needs to come in and really help these two countries to do development in a different way that these countries can develop without the destruction is going with it in places like Indonesia, so I'm Lewis professor of global change science that leads unit. Versity on a project on very follow one of the fundamental lessons from the diversity assessment. Is that nature is how friend we heard of one example of that from Australia and only the weeds, I should call them. So cold weeds good for the soil because they stabilize it. Georgina Kenyans report begins by a small dam, stabilized, willow trees..

Coming up next