masthead sustainability peatland


Responsible forestry is key to our operations

Peatland Management

The east coast of Sumatra is characterised by low-lying flatlands with coastal and riverine peat swamp forests. These environments are difficult to settle and develop and until fairly recently have been left largely unoccupied. Within the last two decades, some of these development challenges have been overcome and Riau Province now has an emerging economy based almost entirely on agronomy and forestry, where a growing population is placing increasing pressure on natural resources with almost all mineral soil areas having been developed. 

The importance of the agriculture and forestry sector is recognised by the government of Indonesia as evidenced by the issue of licenses for development in these areas. This reflects the current economic focus on an industry that creates sustainable employment and local economic contribution. Companies including APRIL Group are licensed to convert previously logged and no longer commercially productive peatlands into actively managed, sustainable forest plantation in line with this direction. 

The beneficiaries of these licenses have a responsibility to ensure they balance community and development imperatives with environmental protection. We protect high value conservation areas from the threats posed by fire and illegal encroachment as part of a total approach to landscape management. At the same time, our sustainable plantation forestry creates employment opportunities, presenting a sustainable alternative to subsistence agriculture for local communities.

APRIL Group’s approach to effective and sustainable peatland management is based on the principle of a ‘balanced’ land use and is part of a total landscape management approach. APRIL Group’s plantations are situated on degraded landscapes that have been developed to produce productive tree farms. Land use allocation is based on High Conservation Value (HCV) assessments both at landscape and unit management levels, public consultation and best available science. HCV assessments identify the appropriate conservation and plantation areas as part of this holistic approach to landscape planning. Landscape planning tools include detailed surveying and mapping, and hydrological assessments and fire management threat assessments. 

Where conservation areas are identified, the implementation of a professionally managed plantation buffer zone forms a protective ring around the conservation area, safeguarding against encroachment and degradation by slash and burn activities. This is a proven way to conserve peat swamp forest domes and riparian corridors from agricultural encroachment, dehydration and fire.

Read more about our Conservation initiatives here.

Peatland’s properties create unique benefits as well as additional responsibilities. The landscape supports highly productive tree farms that create a competitive advantage for Indonesian forestry. When managed wisely and with caution, the risks to the environment are reduced when compared to unmanaged areas of forest. In this way we are committed to ensuring the protection of sensitive peatlands through sustainable plantation management strategies that incorporate fire prevention and suppression, landscape protection as well creating local economic opportunities.

Independent Peat Expert Working Group

An important inclusion in SFMP 2.0 was the commitment to establish an Independent Peat Expert Working Group (IPEWG) to provide science-based recommendations on the further development of our responsible peatland management strategy. It first met in 2016 and consists of six peatland scientists from UK, Finland and Indonesia. To guide its work, the IPEWG developed a Peatland Roadmap that has three components:

  • Science-based understanding and minimising impacts: building a robust scientific understanding to underpin the further development of the APRIL approach to responsible peatland management.
  • Responsible peatland operations: implementing the evolving APRIL approach to responsible peatland operations, designed to minimise fires, optimise yields, improve community livelihoods and minimise subsidence and APRIL’s carbon footprint for existing production on peat.
  • Developing a long-term peatland vision based on a combination of responsibly-managed production, restoration and rehabilitation, and protection of all remaining forest in collaboration with other stakeholders, to deliver a balance between production, protection and social development.

For more information about IPEWG’s work, including its oversight of an important greenhouse gas emissions measurement project, please refer to the IPEWG’s Phase One Progress Update.

Water Management

In Riau, Indonesia, rainfall varies seasonally from anywhere between 50mm of rainfall per month during less wet periods to more than 500mm of rainfall during super wet months.  It is this excess of water over evaporation that drives the need for water management control within our plantations. High Value Conservation forest and other conservation areas are left untouched and protected against plantation activities.

Land use planning is the primary tool used to maximize plantation growth conditions and to minimize any potential environmental impacts associated with peat land development (for example green house gas (GHG) emissions from peat soils that are over-drained i.e. in locations without water management plans and accompanying resources). Landscape planning involves protection and buffering of central peat domes and other sensitive sites to guard against drainage impacts. 

Structural interventions through water control structures are the secondary tool. 

APRIL Group’s water management is planned at a landscape scale and thereafter is implemented at the detailed level by water control weirs that optimise ground water levels. In plantations, water levels are maintained at between 40-90cm in depth ensuring optimal growth and reduced carbon emissions relative to neighbouring unmanaged lands. 

Eliminating Fire Risk

As an efficient carbon sink, the burning of peat results in the emission of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. As a result, it is important to eliminate fire risk on peatland areas. 

APRIL Group has a zero tolerance approach to fire within its concession lands and enforces the same standards among its suppliers. We invest heavily in fire prevention and fire suppression capabilities. We also engage with local communities on education and incentive-based fire prevention initiatives.

Find out more about our Fire Management.

Some areas of peatland contain High Carbon Stocks (HCS). APRIL Group is working with industry experts and authorities to establish the requirements for the identification and protection of HCS areas leading to adoption of appropriate standards.

We continue to collaborate and seek professional advice from leading national and international scientists in the fields of hydrology, conservation and greenhouse gas emissions monitoring to advance our understanding of peatland management. We engage external experts to evaluate and strengthen long-term peatland management strategies with an emphasis on carbon reduction in line with our conservation objectives.