A combination of mandatory and voluntary HCV assessment has resulted in a larger proportion of forest concession areas being protected at landscape-level than elsewhere. A benefactor of this situation is Kampar Peninsula in Riau Province, Indonesia: one of the largest remaining peatland forest areas and home to a unique, bio-diverse peat swamp-forest environment. Asia Pacific Resources International Limited's (APRIL) efforts to protect the area’s peat dome through the implementation of a protective ‘plantation ring’ have proven an effective strategy. Supported by ecosystem restoration initiatives, this approach complements the sustainable, efficient production of fibre from Acacia plantations that in turn support the operation of one of the largest pulp and paper mills in the region.
Peatland use in Indonesia is now subject to a moratorium targeting an improvement of field management. Existing permits for industrial forest plantation continue but with stringent, mandatory regulation. Voluntary, self-regulation plays it part too, with APRIL having committed to the assessment and then protection HCV areas since 2005. To continue operation in this unique ecosystem, the company has implemented MRV as well as fire prevention and water management strategies to limit CO2 emissions as well as any subsidence that may cause an increase in GHG emissions.
However, the rationale behind such protection efforts and the economic flow-on that results from a sustainable approach to peatland forestry operations are not always fully understood or accepted by government, regulators and communities– both at national and local levels. This creates problems.
While mandatory regulation dictates the protection of up to 20 per cent of forestry concession areas for social and environmental benefit, illegal activity and poor enforcement often means that land set aside for conservation or community use is degraded. This disrupts the desired balance between sustainable commercial operation and conservation.
There are three elements to the solution:
- Ecosystem restoration – where plantation forest rings help to create a conservation area to protect peat domes;
- Water Management – so called eco-hydro technology to maintain water level and avoid subsidence; and
- Integrated forest fire management processes to avoid the emission of CO2 from the burning of organic materials.
The sustainable production of fibre is now in it’s third to fourth rotation, equating to more than 15 years of operation. Importantly, the productivity of forest plantation in peatland areas appears to be higher and increasing across the rotation.
It’s clear that the yield from inter-rotation in a peatland area is higher than with mineral soil. Further, operations in peatland areas where there are well-established fire and water management systems in place have proven to be more secure and less conflict-prone than operations on mineral soil. The local experience has shown that mineral soil is prone to encroachment, pest and disease as well as illegal activities.
The Riau province – where forestry is a core industry – has been the target of broad criticism relating to biodiversity degradation and its impact on climate change. APRIL will set aside conservation hectare for every plantation hectare, as well as implementing a voluntary HCV assessment program to increase the proportion of protected areas in concession areas beyond the mandated 20 percent. Indeed, in its sustainable forest policy recently announced, the company is aiming to protect 50 percent of its concession areas to achieve this -for- objective.
Despite these efforts, there remains much to do to achieve a balance between commercial forestry, conservation efforts and strategies in place to ensure the social and economic wellbeing of local communities. Demonstrating the context in which forestry is sustainably managed remains a key task.