Titolo della tesi: Approaches and prioritization strategy for ecological restoration of Southeast Asian peatland ecosystems
Although tropical peatlands in Southeast Asia are among the most biodiversity and carbon-rich landscapes in the world, and provide key ecosystem services to local and international communities, they have experienced extensive degradation and rapid land cover change in recent decades, with associated peat drainage and fires for agricultural purposes. These activities have caused ecological disasters such as large-scale deforestation, forest and peat fires, biodiversity loss, peatland degradation and subsidence, significant GHG emission and air pollution (haze), as well as socio-economic impacts. The restoration of peatlands have been recognised as the primary preventative measures against these environmental and socio-economic challenges, and a key climate change mitigation measure. This thesis looked into the state-of-the-art management and restoration practices, the status of peatland degradation in Southeast Asia, the main causes and drivers of the degradation, and regional and national regulatory responses. The project aimed to strengthen the understanding of peatland restoration needs and characteristics by identifying the components that combined contribute to the restoration of this ecosystem. The objectives of the thesis project were to: (i) develop a prioritization strategy and approach to set country-specific peatland restoration and conservation targets, while maintaining dedicated peatland areas for agriculture and acknowledging the need for these areas to transition to sustainable agricultural practices; and (ii) develop and implement an approach to guide peatland restoration interventions on community managed land, given the large areas of peatlands managed by communities. The PhD project area is Southeast Asia, with case studies in Indonesia. The PhD project aimed to provide greater insights into understanding how to set country-specific targets and baselines for the restoration as well as apply a community-led approach to restoration in community managed land, which is key for finding a long-term solution to the peat fire and haze crisis. These approaches will help inform the conceptualisation of restoration interventions, and bridge research gaps identified.