SMOKE ON WATER
In the Netherlands, coping with the effect of land subsidence on underground infrastructure in peatland soils requires an annual investment of up to 250 Euros per capita (Boersma, 2015). That’s greater than the annual gross domestic product of each of the world’s poorest 28 countries. Subsidence has led some Dutch cities to be as much as eight metres below sea level (FAO, 2014). Another study estimated the potential cost of repairing the Netherlands’ damaged infrastructure to be as high as 5.2 billion Euros up to 2050 (PBL, 2016). In Malaysia, in the Rajang Delta, subsidence already affects the productivity of 29 percent of the area. It is also impacting 24 percent of the Kampar Peninsula in Indonesia. Subsidence is expected to increase in both areas to the extent that nearly all peatland in the area will be lost, much of it within decades (Hooijer et al., 2015; Hooijer et al., 2015a).
cm per year, resulting in a subsidence of 2–3 metres over 25 years and 4–5 meters within 100 years (Fornasiero et al., 2002; Hooijer et al., 2012; Page and Hooijer, 2014; Epple et al., 2016). As a result, relative water levels in the peatlands will rise again (the water level does not rise, but rather the land subsides), eventually flooding the peatland, unless it is drained deeper, thus again speeding up subsidence. This process is a vicious cycle which causes drained peatlands to be slowly bogged down. In many areas of the world, peatland heights are close to sea level (e.g. in Southeast Asia, Northwestern Europe, Florida and California). There, the subsiding areas become prone to flooding and exposure to acid sulfate soils, saltwater intrusion, spoiling the area for agriculture (Fornasiero et al., 2002; Page et al., 2002; Hooijer et al., 2012, 2015; Page and Hooijer, 2014; Boersma, 2015).
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