Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Geography


Biomass burning dramatically affects atmospheric composition and climate. Southeast Asia is a region where prior forest clearance, drainage of peatlands for agriculture, and the ongoing use of fire to 'manage' land annually leads to quite extensive emissions to the atmosphere (van der Werf et al., 2009). Occasionally however, El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate anomalies lead to regional drought that massively exacerbates this annual activity, resulting in much more extensive, more strongly burning fires that include areas of forest and peat normally too moist to burn. There is a strong ENSO event occurring currently (Oct 2015) and this has lead to extensive and unusually severe fire activity in Berbak National Park (Sumatra) where we are working in collaboration with Zoological Society of London and with local Indonesian partners, supported by an Indonesian Government research permit. This allows us access to measure the unique activity now occurring, in order get a far better understanding of the greenhouse gas emissions from this unique fire activity, which is hugely magnified compared to "normal" years. Under the Urgency Funding we propose to undertake an aerial survey and in situ measurement campaign in order to collect the data needed for these calculations.

Planned Impact

a. Who could potentially benefit.

The IPCC and the SE Asian governments reporting GHG emissions to them will benefit through the improvements in emissions quantification. Furthermore, those involved in the REDD+ initiative that aims to 'establish an incentive mechanism to reduce GHG emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, conserve and enhance forest carbon stocks, and promote sustainable forest management' (UNFCCC, 2011) will also benefit. More than 100 REDD+ projects are underway, including in Indonesia and wider SE Asia. Downstream beneficiaries of the REDD+ programme, including both conservationists and those working in poverty reduction, stand to ultimately gain.

This project will have a direct bearing on improving the understanding of fire emissions in a region responsible for some of the largest net carbon emissions from fires, and therefore policymakers in government and scientific bodies (such as IPCC) could all be users of the project outcomes.

b. How might the potential beneficiaries benefit?
The benefit will come from improved methodologies, parameters and reporting related to biomass burning and the associated emissions from landuse and landcover change related fires in SE Asia, including in an "extreme fire" ENSO year.
Description We have demonstrated a method to measure peatland depth of burn in relation to the highly polluting fires that occur in these SE Asian landscapes, which are the most polluting fires on Earth. We used the method to measure the distribution of depth of burn in Indonesian peatlands during the intense 2015 El Nino.
Exploitation Route Emissions modellers and emissions databases can use our depth of burn assessments, to replace the very few currently available to the community.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment

Description On the basis of this work we rain a training programme for Indonesian scientists and Govt officials in 2019 This was to help them gain information on the air quality impacts of fires - and potentially to use these for air quality early warning
First Year Of Impact 2019
Sector Environment
Impact Types Policy & public services

Description GeoStationary Fire data for Developing Countries
Amount £111,965 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/S014004/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2019 
End 03/2022
Description New satellite observations to improve monitoring and forecasting of severe smoke pollution over SE Asia caused by Indonesian landscape burning
Amount £125,708 (GBP)
Funding ID ST/S003029/1 
Organisation Science and Technologies Facilities Council (STFC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2019 
End 03/2021