WWF urges peat agency to ensure companies refrain from replanting acacia in peatlands

( - In addition to being incorporated into protection zones, acacia-planted blocks spread among pulpwood concessions in Sumatra and Kalimantan located in peat domes should be harvested as soon as possible and subsequently rewet for the purposes of restoration. Taking these actions represents the only possible way of expediting the restoration of these peat domes.

Both in the short and long term, companies which have acacia-planted blocks in peat domes are effectively making a business choice incompatible with the principles of sustainability. There is actually no need, either for business or ecological purposes, to preserve the acacia-planted blocks which currently proliferate in pulpwood plantations.

All acacia-planted blocks found in pulpwood concessions, and not only those in peat domes, must be replaced with endemic species. This process needs to begin as quickly as possible so that in five years time there will no longer be peatlands in any pulpwood concessions in which acacia is planted, and instead these areas will flourish with local native species.

Aditya Bayunanda, WWF-Indonesia's Forest Commodity Leader, gave his views on transition efforts to stop the replanting of acacia in peatlands in an interview with (May 27).

Dito, as he is commonly called, stressed that after harvesting of acacia-planted blocks located in peatlands has taken place - which is to be done soon - this plant species must be replaced with endemic species of plants.

"Acacia is actually a dryland plant species and shouldnt be planted in peatlands, just like oil palms. What happens is that the peatlands get dried out to accommodate the planting of acacia and then canals become necessary to drain these peatlands so that they remain dry. In fact, peatlands should always remain wet, and even more so their peat domes," Dito explained.

Dito expressed his hope that the Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency will step up and play an important role in pushing for the issuance of a regulation aimed at ending the replanting of acacia in peatlands as well as the replacing of acacia-planted blocks spread among pulpwood concessions with endemic species.

The peat agency not only needs to encourage reforms at the regulatory level, but it also needs to urge pulpwood companies to refrain from any more replanting of acacia in peatlands after harvesting has been completed. This is vital so that Indonesian peatlands located in pulpwood concessions no longer act as the source of peat fires, Dito implored.

He cautioned against waiting another 20 or 25 years before restoring peatlands in pulpwood concessions planted with acacia, as these peatlands will simply continue to subside due their constant drainage.

In concluding the interview with, the WWF activist declared it was inevitable that acacia-planted blocks in peatlands would collapse in the long run, possibly in around 20-25 years time, and by that stage nobody will be able to do anything with the areas due to dire levels of subsidence.

If were talking about another 20 or 25 years, the acacia-planted blocks in peatlands wont be productive any more. A lot of research points to this conclusion. So, when this happens, are permits just going to be handed back to the government?"

Meanwhile, Asia Pulp and Paper (APP)-linked pulpwood concessions operating in South Sumatra were the biggest culprits in terms of last year's peat fires, which saw the burning of hundreds of thousands of hectares of peatlands situated in these concessions.

The Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency, established by President Joko Widodo in early January, counts among its duties the restoration of approximately two million hectares of peatlands destroyed in last years huge peat fires. South Sumatra is one of the priority provinces for the restoration of these burned peatlands, including those scattered among APP-linked pulpwood concessions.