We are very pleased to announce that RSS, as lead of the International Peat Mapping Team, won the Indonesian Peat Prize this morning! The competition aimed to find a new, more accurate and efficient way of mapping tropical peatland extent and thickness, and the Scientific Advisory Board selected our methodology from a number of highly qualified and innovative competitors. The Indonesian government will use our method to protect and manage peatland areas, accelerate peatland restoration and support Indonesia’s development goals. The Indonesian Geospatial Agency BIG will lead the process of using the winning method to improve the current standard for mapping peatland in a scale of 1:50,000, and will start the process by issuing a BIG regulation on peatland mapping.
The contest to find the best methodology to measure the extent and depth of peat in Indonesia drew 44 teams which included some of the biggest names in peat research and mapping. The Prize’s Scientific Advisory Board (SAB), a group of scientists and experts who reviewed the finalists’ submissions, reached a unanimous decision that the International Peat Mapping team produced the most accurate, timely and cost-effective methodology for mapping peatlands.
Peat is a major source of carbon dioxide emissions when it burns or decomposes. In 2015, peatlands were responsible for 42% of Indonesia’s total emissions. In the devastating 2015 fire season, forests and peat fires caused 100,000 premature deaths, cost the Indonesian economy $16 billion, and released 1.62 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the emissions produced by nearly 350,000 cars. The depth, or thickness, of peat soils is an essential measurement; the deeper the peat is, the more ecological damage, including carbon emissions, results from disturbance. Uncertainty around data and information concerning peatland, particularly the depth of peat, has delayed protection and restoration measures for Indonesia’s peatlands, allowing irresponsible parties to continue business as usual, often resulting in drained peat and fires.