The project is composed of three work groups, i.e. Community, Corporate and Governance Group, Material Cycling Group and International Research Group. The three groups approach the issues of peatland degradation from the perspectives of social science, natural science and international relationship respectively, and explore the transformability of environmentally vulnerable societies.
The Community, Corporate and Governance Group deals with the socio-economic matters of peatland societies. Their study focuses on livelihood strategies, land tenure, and resource use to identify factors that cause peat degradation. The group works with local institutions and organizations at the village level to establish mitigation and adaptation practices. This group consists of economists, anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, experts on company management, and experts on administration/governance.
One of the most important tasks of this group is to practice paludiculture in the village of Tanjung Leban, Bengkalis district, Riau. An expert team implements the construction of canal blockages, organizes social activities to prevent peatland fires, and plants indigenous trees and other crops that are suitable for the rewetted peatlands. In parallel with it, some members investigate the economic situations of each household, the actual situation of land tenure, and the details of the use of water, soil, wood and other resources. The similar approach is also taken in the village of Kepau Baru, Meranti Islands district, Riau. Through these activities, the group explores the effective ways of mitigating peatland degradation and sustainable adaptation to the rewetted peatlands.
In addition to community-level research activities, the group deals with the issues of governance and corporation policies. A team tries to create a detailed village map that visualizes peatland areas, administrative boundaries and land use in a fishing village of Pelalawan district, Riau, in collaboration with a local NGO. The team tries to assess the impact of “counter mapping”, with which local communities are trying to negotiate with the government and corporations to insist on their land right. A team also investigates the trends of acacia and oil palm corporations that manage plantations in peatland environment.
The Material Cycling Group conducts intensive multi-disciplinary research, particularly on water and material cycles, in several representative peatlands in Southeast Asia for the integration of natural and social scientific mapping to better understand peatland ecosystems. The group also investigates the influence of peatland haze and fires, and assesses the health hazards associated with them. The group consists of hydrologists, meteorologists, botanists and pedologists.
As concrete research activities, the group is monitoring carbon and nutrient cycling, water quality within groundwater and river water, greenhouse gas (CO2 and CH4) dynamics, and the level of water table and the effects of canal blockage, placing measuring devices within the two main research villages in Riau (mentioned above) and three villages in Kalimantan. Through such monitoring, the group aims to clarify the influence of peatland degradation and create a guideline for the effective restoration.
The group also studies haze caused by peatland fire and its resultant health impact on the people affected. Smoke haze from forest and peatland fires in Sumatra and Kalimantan has repeatedly affected the air quality of nearby areas and neighboring countries. Installing palm-sized sensors at two points in Pekanbaru city, a team is monitoring the increase of decrease of PM2.5, NO, O3, CO and NO2. In addition, some members are conducting the investigation of respiratory tract disease in primary schools and hospitals in Indonesia in collaboration with Indonesian counterparts.
The International Research Group compares the social and ecological situations of peatlands in the world, and integrates experiences on sustainable peatland management. This group organizes international workshops and seminars to promote communications between academic institutions. The members include experts on international relations, political science, and experienced scientists who conduct research within peatland outside of Indonesia.
The group’s first mission is to construct interregional research networks through the seminars and workshops, and accumulate the basic data of peatlands of various regions such as Russia, Malaysia, Peru, and Central Kalimantan. For example, the group is developing collaborative ties with the Russian Science Academy and the Far East Asian Branch in the sphere of preventing peatland fires. The members discuss the prospects of a joint research program, especially concerned with the ecological, social and epidemiological studies, with the experts of Russian peatlands. Through comparative studies on peatlands among various regions, the group integrate the knowledge and techniques of peatland protection and mitigation of degradation.