Lenses on Peatland Part 2 : A Photo Story
Written on September 26, 2017 (06:56 pm) | In : Forests Landscapes | 0 Comments

Before seeing it up close, I had a mental image of the damp compost in my composting bin when thinking about peatland. The soil I saw in the peat swamp forests of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia was wetter and less decomposed than I thought. This is what makes peatland so unique, the constant water flooding the land prevent the organic material from fully decomposing. In a sense, it kind of 'mummifies' the organic material. As the organic material builds up, it becomes more like a giant sponge. This is what the peat swamps do, they soak up rainfall thus preventing flooding and then release the moisture during the dry season. Nature's service at its best. If you jump on the soil it bounces back like a waterbed. All the organic matter in peatland means it stores carbon. When the peat swamp is dried and burned the carbon escapes into the atmosphere and therefore contributes to climate change. It takes thousands of years for peatland to form. This picture above is a peat swamp that was burned in the massive 2015 forest fires and slowly regenerating itself. 

Curious about peatland? I found this article helpful: What is Peat Swamp and why should I Care?, Mongabay  or this in Indonesian Ada Apa Dengan Gambut, Pantau Gambut.  



Muddy feet or an intentional peat mud spa? I kid you not.  The properties of peat such as minerals and antioxidants are being used by the beauty industry to create skincare products.  If sustainably harvested, can contribute to the local economy, and promote the importance of peatland I say there is something there to explore. Anyone doing research on this?



A fire lookout tower at Palang Pisau District, Central Kalimantan. Also a popular hangout spot for local teenagers.



Here I'm at the 'Jumpun Pambelom' ('Life-Giving Forest') reserve where Mr. Januminro a local man bought 21 hectares of peat swamp forest after massive fires in 1997. With the help of local communities, he managed to reforest his land and also establish an emergency fire response team. This frame may look dense with tall trees, but beyond his property, the land is bare and degraded. The secret? One hundred and twenty wells installed to ensure the peatland remains wet and stave off fires. In 2015, after another onslaught of flames, a family of orangutans fleeing the inferno sought refuge in the reserve and have stayed there since. 


Captured by Danar Tri Atmojo | @danartriatmojo



See land ablaze? Call a fire response team near you. --- A speed-dial kind of thing.



A view deep in the peat swamp forest of Sebangau National Park, named after the main river that flows through the park. Large parts of the forest were damaged due to both legal and illegal logging, but now it is protected and harbors the world's biggest population of orangutans.  Efforts by the government are also underway to make the national park a model of peatland restoration and management. The best way to explore the park is by a speedboat. You will cruise through a forest of floating nipah or a type of mangrove palm that really are striking beauties!




A fisherman's boat parked on the black waters of the peat swamp in Sebangau National Park cast a perfect reflection. Locals depend directly on the ecosystem as a source of food, water, fuel and timber sources, as well as traditional medicine and materials to make domestic products like baskets and fish traps. To catch a glimpse into the lives of these people, read my other post.



.. and if you're wondering why the water is so dark (like a cup of weak coffee), it's because of a certain property from plants called tannin. The tannin dilutes into the river giving it a dark tinge. It also makes the water bitter with a weird tangy after-taste. Yes, I had a sip.



Speedboat operator, park ranger, member of fire squad --- this man does it all. 



A colorful display meets the eye at a fishing village which provides one of the entrances to the Sebangau National Park. In the distance, a fisherwoman is paddling into the dock.



Here's a bountiful catch from the beje ponds and fishing traps she set on the Sebangau River. She keeps her harvest in a partially flooded compartment in her wooden boat until she docks and her husband helps to weigh the fish. The fishermen of Sebangau River can harvest up to 100kg (about 220 pounds) worth of fish in a week. They carefully release juvenile fish so they have a chance to breed and thus maintain healthy populations. I had a chance to taste one of the local fish they call ikan tapah. It's fatty meat is amazingly good. It's a type of catfish that can grow to become giants. The fisherwoman told us of another fisherman who caught a 60 kg whopper. I mean, that fish is heavier than me!



Just a girl, thankful for peat swamp forests. Captured by 'Bolang' Sutiknyo | @lostpacker


Find out more about Indonesia's peatlands and efforts to protect and restore them at http://www.pantaugambut.id/  | @pantaugambut


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