MAPPING LAO PEATLANDS
Phingsaliao Sithiengtham’s first introduction to peatlands happened when the mandate of peatland management was transferred to his department at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Lao PDR in 2018.
In September 2020, he participated in three half-day sessions of the Joint Regional Virtual Training on Peatland Assessment and Mapping, organised by the SustainableUse of Peatland and Haze Mitigation in ASEAN (SUPA) programme and Measurable Action for Haze-Free Sustainable Land Management in Southeast Asia (MAHFSA).
Since then, it has all been about peatland identification and mapping for Phing. In July 2021, he went on his first peatland visit and conducted his first survey. ‘It’s a different kind of soil and it’s amazing to know how much carbon it can store, how it stores water and how valuable it is for our country’.
Peatland identification and mapping is the first step in peatland management and conservation, but the remote and often inaccessible locations of peatlands makes the detection and mapping process challenging.
In August 2021, SUPA Component 1, in collaboration with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Mekong Peatland project selected two targeted areas in Cambodia and Lao PDR and developed a methodology for identifying and mapping unknown peatlands.
The methodology includes the combined use of different satellite instruments that are sensitive to the bio-physical
properties of peatlands, ‘We use the satellites to identify flat terrain with predominantly wet soils and covered with peat specific vegetation types’, Prof. Dr. Florian Siegert explained.
Dr. Siegert is one of the leading scientists applying data from the European Copernicus Earth Observation program to identify potential peatland areas by remote sensing. ‘This activity provides us with a probability map for peatlands’, he said. The findings will then be verified through in situ ground surveys. This methodology is currently the most effective and costefficient way to provide enough information for more targeted process to identify peatlands in a nationwide approach’.
‘I am excited to expand this mapping activity across Lao PDR with SUPA component 1 project in 2022’, Phing said. ‘Knowing more about our peatlands will help us prioritise our actions to conserve them’.