How Does a Peatland Become a Plantation?

Through: 1) Deforestation 2) Drainage 3) Fires

Take a look at this picture of a pristine tropical peatland.

The Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu peatland in Riau Province of Sumatra, Indonesia Credit: Ariau Aditya/CC

The Giam Siak Kecil-Bukit Batu peatland in Riau Province of Sumatra, Indonesia Credit: Ariau Aditya/CC

Now look at this picture next to it, a palm oil plantation that replaced this peatland:

Credit: Michael Thirnbeck/Flickr (Mangiwau )

Credit: Michael Thirnbeck/Flickr (Mangiwau )

While these images both look green and lush, to go from A to B, involved complete deforestation of existing land, drainage of these lands, and often uncontrolled fires in order to fully destroy all existing plant and animal life on these lands and make them “suitable” for growing oil palm trees.

Peatlands in Southeast Asia had remained untouched by palm oil companies in the early years of the industry because the soil was not very fertile and too wet (peat soils are 90% water!), which are not the best conditions to grow crops. Somewhere down the line, however, it was discovered if you drain these lands, they were pretty good for growing palm oil.

So recent increasing demand for palm oil from consumers around the world —because it is used in so many products—  means companies have continued to clear forests and peatlands to grow more oil palm trees. It is crazy to imagine how willing companies are to destroy beautiful tropical forests and peatlands, homes to thousands of animals and peoples who call these lands home.  You have to see the destruction to believe it!

Scroll Below:

The Peatland Must be Cleared of All Vegetation on the Soil

Credit: Ryan Woo/CIFOR/CC

Credit: Ryan Woo/CIFOR/CC

The Peatland Must be Drained of All Water Remember, peat soil is 90% water, and this process sucks out the water from waterways and the soil so it is dry enough to grow oil palm trees.

Credit: H Dragon/CC

Credit: H Dragon/CC

Fires are Intentionally Set to Clear Land or Lands are So Dry Afterwards They Accidentally Catch Fire Sometimes fires are set because it is a cheaper way to clear the land without using a bulldozer. If they aren’t set on fire on purpose, once these lands are drained, they are more likely to catch fire from lightning, which results in massive wildfires that destroy surrounding peatlands and forests, and kill hundreds and thousands of animals living on these lands.

Credit: endoftheicons.wordpress

Credit: endoftheicons.wordpress


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