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Research agendas for the sustainable management of tropical peatland in Malaysia

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2014

Malaysia Japan International Institute of Technology, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur 54100, Malaysia
School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
Malaysia Japan International Institute of Technology, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur 54100, Malaysia
Research Institute for Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Darwin NT 0909, Australia
Department of Geography, University of Leicester, Leicester LE1 7RH, UK
Faculty of Science and Environment, Portland Square Building, Drake Circus, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK
School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow G12 8QQ, UK
School of Biosciences, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, Semenyih, Selangor Darul Ehsan 43500, Malaysia
Institute for Global Food Security, Queen's University Belfast, David Keir Building, Malone Road, Belfast BT9 5BN, Northern Ireland, UK
Malaysia Japan International Institute of Technology, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur 54100, Malaysia
Global Environment Centre, Petaling Jaya, Selangor 47300, Malaysia
UTM Palm Oil Research Center, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur 54100, Malaysia
School of Geography, University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, Semenyih, Selangor Darul Ehsan 43500, Malaysia
School of Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences, Faculty of Science and Technology, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 43600 Bangi, Selangor, Malaysia
Institute of Biodiversity and Environmental Conservation, Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, 94300 Kota Samarahan, Sarawak, Malaysia
Malaysia Japan International Institute of Technology, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur 54100, Malaysia
*Correspondence: Dr Rory Padfield Tel: +60 1366 32037 e-mail:


There is a need for coordinated research for the sustainable management of tropical peatland. Malaysia has 6% of global tropical peat by area and peatlands there are subject to land use change at an unprecedented rate. This paper describes a stakeholder engagement exercise that identified 95 priority research questions for peatland in Malaysia, organized into nine themes. Analysis revealed the need for fundamental scientific research, with strong representation across the themes of environmental change, ecosystem services, and conversion, disturbance and degradation. Considerable uncertainty remains about Malaysia's baseline conditions for peatland, including questions over total remaining area of peatland, water table depths, soil characteristics, hydrological function, biogeochemical processes and ecology. More applied and multidisciplinary studies involving researchers from the social sciences are required. The future sustainability of Malaysian peatland relies on coordinating research agendas via a ‘knowledge hub’ of researchers, strengthening the role of peatlands in land-use planning and development processes, stricter policy enforcement, and bridging the divide between national and provincial governance. Integration of the economic value of peatlands into existing planning regimes is also a stakeholder priority. Finally, current research needs to be better communicated for the benefit of the research community, for improved societal understanding and to inform policy processes.

Copyright © Foundation for Environmental Conservation 2014 

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