For the first time, this year the International Peat Congress – the quadrennial meeting of the International Peat Society – was held outside of Europe and North America, with the meeting very appropriately being held in Borneo, in Kuching, Sarawak, at 15-19 August 2016. This location helped provide a strong focus on Borneo’s and Indonesia’s peatlands throughout the conference, which is of utmost importance to the international peat and conservation community, given the perilous nature of most of the area’s peat-swamp forests.
The Borneo Nature Foundation featured prominently at this important meeting, which was attended by over 1,000 delegates, including scientists, NGOs, industry and government stakeholders. BNF Co-Director, Dr Mark Harrison, presented the results of our PhD student, Megan Cattau’s, work assessing the sources of fire ignitions in Central Kalimantan’s peat swamps. This presentation was particularly relevant to the meeting, which focused strongly on issues related to oil palm development on peat. Our Trustee, Prof. Sue Page, delivered a Keynote Address to the Congress, which covered a range of important issues related to fire causes, impacts and management in Indonesia’s peatlands.
In addition, together with Prof. Jack Rieley (co-founder of our Natural Laboratory research base in Sabangau), Dr Harrison chaired a Special Session of nine talks focusing on Tropical Peat-swamp Forest Biodiversity and Conservation in South-east Asia. Among others, this included talks from Prof. Rieley (history of peat-swamp forest research in the region), Dr Harrison (impacts of the 2015 fire crisis on biodiversity in Kalimantan’s peat swamps), BNF PhD student Sara Thornton (fish ecology), Wim Giesen (use of peat-swamp forest tree species), Wetlands International Head Dr Marcel Silvius (extinction of endemic peat-swamp forest dragonflies) and GRASP’s Julien Simery (development of new online mapping tools to aid orangutan conservation).
This Special Session, and the Congress as a whole, were very successful and generated a lot of interest. We hope that the knowledge shared and gained, connections established, and publicity generated from this will help enhance conservation of Borneo’s threatened, yet critically important, peatland habitats.