Paludiculture as a sustainable land use alternative for tropical peatlands: A review

Sci Total Environ. 2021 Jan 20;753:142111. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.142111. Epub 2020 Sep 3.


Peatlands cover approximately 4.2 million km2 of terrestrial land surface and store up to 700 Pg of terrestrial carbon. Preserving the carbon stocks in peatland is therefore crucial for climate change mitigation. Under natural conditions, peatland carbon storage is maintained by moist peat conditions, which decreases decomposition and encourages peat formation. However, conversion of peatlands to drainage-based agriculture in the form of industrial plantations and smallholder farming has resulted in globally significant greenhouse gas emissions. Paludiculture, loosely conceptualized as biomass production on wet peatlands with the potential to maintain carbon storage, is proposed as a sustainable, non-drainage-based agriculture alternative for peatland use. However, while the concept of paludiculture was developed in temperate ecoregions, its application in the tropics is poorly understood. In this review, we examine common definitions of paludiculture used in literature to derive key themes and future directions. We found three common themes: ecosystem services benefits of paludiculture, hydrological conditions of peatlands, and vegetation selection for planting. Ambiguities surrounding these themes have led to questions on whether paludiculture applications are sustainable in the context of carbon sequestration in peat soil. This review aims to evaluate and advance current understanding of paludiculture in the context of tropical peatlands, which is especially pertinent given expanding agriculture development into Central Africa and South America, where large reserves of peatlands were recently discovered.

Keywords: Biomass production; Carbon sequestration; Climate change; Ecosystem service; Peatlands; Sustainable agriculture.

Publication types

  • Review