Journal Highlights

Measuring Emissions from Smoldering Peat Fires

Research Spotlight—

A new study measures emission factors for tropical peatland fires in Malaysia.

When we picture a wildfire, it’s unlikely we would imagine a smoldering peat fire. These fires burn for days or weeks under the top layer of soil, releasing smoke and heat through the soil and vegetation. Although they may not seem threatening, tropical peat fires release gases into the atmosphere that contribute to pollution, human respiratory problems, and climate change.

These ecosystems are carbon sinks that trap potentially harmful greenhouse gases, and peatlands in tropical countries like Indonesia and Malaysia have an outsized role in carbon storage. Although they make up just 10% of global peat ecosystems, tropical peatlands may store more than 30% of the global peatland carbon. But that means when peatlands burn—usually because of agriculture or poor land managment—greenhouse gases make their way into the atmosphere. Estimates indicate that tropical peat fires account for at least 25% of the total greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation....more

-- Alexandra Branscombe, Freelance Writer,