Reducing impact of plantation operations on peatlands in Indonesia

As part of its Forest Conservation Policy  (FCP ) launched on February 5 th 2013, APP (Asian PulpPaper) committed to support the protection of forested peatland and to develop and implement peatland best management practices in the peat landscapes in which its supplier concessions are located (Sumatra and Kalimantan, Indonesia). To help provide the peat-specific knowledge required by APP to meet these commitments, an expert team led by Deltares has been asked to develop Peatland Best Practice Management (PBPMP).

Peatland areas are not only important ecosystems, they also support regional economic development and have received much investment from local and national governments. Drainage of peatlands for agriculture leads to peat loss and land subsidence, which in turn leads to increased flooding, impacting on remaining forest conservation areas. The aim of this project is to investigate these impacts and recommend mitigation methods.

Plantation impacts on peat, natural forest and flooding

The PBPMP project started in December 2014 and will take approximately two years. It will cover all APP concessions that have peatland areas, plus surrounding peat domes, totalling an area of up to 5 million hectares. The project will focus on two main issues:

  1. plantation impacts on peat – carbon emissions, land subsidence- and forest resources (dieback, fires), that are mostly environmental concerns
  2. flooding which is a more direct economic risk to the company.

However all these impacts are connected and in fact mainly caused by one single process: the drainage of peat, which leads to peat loss and land subsidence through biological decomposition, which then leads to flooding.


  • The project will include a substantial research and data collection component. At its core is a LiDAR elevation data collection effort applying the ‘strip approach’, designed to quantify conditions in over 5 million hectares of peatland that is directly or indirectly affected by APP plantations. These data will allow production of accurate elevation models and peat thickness maps,
  • Assessments of historical subsidence following drainage,
  • Assessments of impacts of drainage on conservation forest,
  • Improved assessments of actual water levels in plantations.

Water table depth data collected by APP and during surveys will be combined to create a model of water levels currently being achieved. This will enable the team to project what levels can be achieved under improved management. Allowing setting of BMP targets, for short term water levels as well as long-term subsidence and forest impact reduction. Operational procedures for achieving these targets in practice will be produced collaboratively with APP. Design and implementation of water management interventions will be supported.


Based on extensive knowledge of plantation impacts on peat and forest, and on realistic and proven mitigation options, the expert team will recommend improved concession zoning (i.e. spatial planning), improved delineation of areas designated for production, forest conservation, peat rehabilitation and buffer zones.

The project will balance the need for thorough data collection and analysis with the urgency of initiating management improvements and revised plantation zoning. After 18 months, Deltares will provide final recommendations. This will be followed by a 6 month period of implementation support.

APP will incorporate the findings of this work into its Integrated Sustainable Forest Management Plans (ISFMP), which will set out how each of the company’s concessions will be managed responsibly. Stakeholders can provide input on how the findings on peat are implemented, through APP’s ISFMP stakeholder consultation process, which has an established forum for this.

The project is built on 10 years of Deltares experience of management and research in tropical peatlands in SE Asia, in over 25 projects, with a focus on subsidence and flooding issues. It is supported by Deltares’ global peatland experts, who have extensive collective knowledge of these issues.