EPA Science Inventory

Emergy and Evaluating Ecosystem Services in a Sumatran Peat Swamp, Indonesia. Chapter 13


McLachlan-Karr, J. AND Daniel E. Campbell. Emergy and Evaluating Ecosystem Services in a Sumatran Peat Swamp, Indonesia. Chapter 13. In Proceedings, Emergy Synthesis 7: Theory and Applications of the Emergy Methodology, Gainsville, FL, January 11 - 14, 2012. Center for Environmental Policy, University of Florida, Gainsville, FL, 107-122, (2013).


The purpose of this article is to document preliminary investigations into valuing peat swamp ecosystem function and services in Indonesia and to compare these values with the current development alternative, Acacia pulp wood plantation, using the emergy methodology. The Zamrud National Forest in the Kampar Peninsular, Riau Province, Sumatra, was selected as a study area by Kemitraan Partnership as part of international efforts to conserve peat swamps in Indonesia. The study area’s renewable empower density is around 7.4 E12 sej m-2 yr-1 and is considerably higher than other evaluated wetland systems in Florida. The results in Table 1, given in Em$ ha-1 yr-1, show that the ecosystem components with the highest values are fish biomass production at Em$ 2.44 E5 per hectare per year (ha-1 yr-1), then peat production at Em$ 1.22 E4 ha-1 yr-1 followed by live biomass at Em$ 9.60 E3 ha-1 yr-1. The ecosystem service with the highest value is hydrological regulation of outflows to the Siak River valued at Em$ 2.97 E4 ha-1 yr-1 then fisheries yields at Em$ 2.48 E3 ha-1 yr-1. The current value of the development alternative, Acacia pulp wood production, is Em$2.25 E3 ha-1 yr-1. This is based on an average yield of 17 tons biomass ha-1 yr-1 and a commercial value of ~$US 9,000 ha-1 yr-1 in 2008. This compares to the main swamp economic activity (artisanal fisheries) in the fairly low productivity, swamp lakes at Em$ 2.48 E3 ha-1 yr-1 but with a commercial value of only around $US120 ha-1 yr-1. The emergy investment ratio for swamp artisanal fisheries is 8.7 reflecting the level of investment compared to the free emergy inputs but also suggesting a high level of work by local fishers for their catch. The emergy yield ratio for Acacia plantation is around 3.3 while its investment ratio is only 0.15 (including peat losses) as a large volume of organic peat is used up in its production. The results of the emergy evaluation highlight the disparity in value between the two competing systems and suggest that much more peat swamp area will be converted to plantations in the near term. Although the fisheries yield is slightly higher than the pulp plantation in emergy terms, it is used to support local populations without much money changing hands. The Acacia plantation is economically more attractive, but the emergy evaluation of ecosystem functions illustrate that overall substituting Acacia plantations for fish and peat production is a poor trade off in real wealth for Indonesia. The high emergy values reflect the important ecosystem services from peat swamps in the regulation of hydrological (and potentially atmospheric) systems. This scenario also undermines Indonesia’s potential to participate in emerging international initiatives designed to help address the loss of ecosystem services through market mechanisms for services including carbon sequestration and biodiversity conservation.


This study examined the environmental value and ecosystem services with peat swamps in Indonesia. While the alternative land use as pulp wood plantations had greater economic yield, public value was better supported by allowing the land to remain as peat swamp with some fisheries production. This study was located in a faraway corner of the world (Indonesia) and while its result is of interest in showing the high value of mature natural systems compared to forest development, the impact associated with this realization will probably be low.


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Record Details:

Completion Date: 02/21/2014
Record Last Revised: 02/21/2014
Record Created: 02/21/2014
Record Released: 02/21/2014
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 269360