Post-fire carbon emissions from burnt peatlands in Brunei      
Tropical peatlands hold about 15–19% of the global organic carbon (C) pool of which 77% in Southeast Asia. Nonetheless Southeast Asian peatlands have been exploited for timber and land for agriculture leading to rapid deforestation, extensive drainage and frequent fires. Direct C-emissions through peat combustion must be quantified to examine the impact of peat fires on global and regional C-budgets, however it is also essential to evaluate oxidative decomposition of peat after fires for a complete understanding of ecosystem-scale fire impact. This kind of investigation is necessary also to understand the effect of peat burning on peat decomposition, because burning effects on the belowground environment are variable, depending on burnt frequency and fire severity. After a fire, ecosystems act as a C-source for months-to-years as ecosystem-respiration (Reco) exceeds photosynthesis. Furthermore during fires, the surface peat with a higher proportion of the more modern rapidly-cycled C burns preferentially. The loss of the surface peat possibly can reduce oxidative soil CO2 emissions, as the deeper, older peat, has more recalcitrant compounds. However, CO2 emissions from this old C pool are a net flux to the atmosphere compared to the modern C.
Within this context, we are quantifying the magnitudes and patterns of ecosystem-atmosphere fluxes of carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) through cavity-ring spectroscopy in different transects of an intact tropical peat swamp forest and in two degraded forest areas affected by two and six fires over the last 40 years in Brunei, on the island of Borneo. We are using natural tracers such as δ13C and 14C to investigate the age and sources (auto- and heterotrophic) of C contributing to Reco and we are continuously monitoring soil temperature and water table level.