Peat agency LiDAR mapping omits evidence of burned peat forests

(foresthints.news) - A Norwegian-funded LiDAR mapping initiative, whose implementation was coordinated by the World Resources Institute (WRI) with the Indonesian Peat Restoration Agency (BRG) as the main user of the maps it produced, led to a detailed but misleading analysis by understating 2015’s burned peat forests, most notably in Indonesia’s Central Kalimantan province. 

A land cover analysis based on the LiDAR mapping neglected evidence of significant swathes of burned peat forests from 2015 scattered among the Kahayan peat hydrological unit in Pulang Pisau regency, one of four peat restoration priority regencies, where the mapping was performed.

It seems extremely strange that the detailed analysis of the LiDAR mapping results so conspicuously downplayed the extent of 2015’s burned peat forests given that the key legally-based mandate of the peat agency is to restore 2015’s burned peat areas. 

After this LiDAR mapping-based detailed analysis was submitted to the Ministry of the Environment and Forestry in August this year, foresthints.news became interested in learning about the classifications within it pertaining to 2015’s burned peat forests, as derived from the results of the LiDAR mapping.

This news report represents the results of a very simple verification conducted by foresthints.news in respect of this matter.

The two Google Earth images below - presented by the foresthints.news spatial team - depict changes in land cover, from relatively intact peat forests to burned forests, as a result of 2015’s devastating peat fires.

However, these burned peat forests were somehow not classified as burned areas in the detailed analysis based on the peat agency’s LiDAR mapping - and this is just one sample location that was looked at.

In fact, the detailed analysis of the LiDAR mapping only classified 2015's burned peat forests as low-density secondary peat forests.

As a result of this, out of the 336,000 hectares - more than four times the size of Singapore - mapped by the LiDAR mapping technology in the Kahayan peat hydrological unit, only a very small remaining portion ended up being classified as burned areas.

It is unquestionable, therefore, that this detailed analysis of the LiDAR mapping was clearly very misleading and completely inaccurate, in both a technical and legal sense.  

Real and legal evidence

In early January this year, the Environment and Forestry Ministry documented 2015’s burned peat forests, including parts of the Kahayan peat hydrological unit which had been LiDAR-mapped under the coordination of the WRI.

The following photos - taken as part of the ministry’s ground-based observations - show real evidence of 2015’s burned peat forests in some of the areas which were LiDAR-mapped. These are the very same areas that were confusingly not classified as burned peat areas based on the peat agency’s LiDAR mapping.


Considering that real evidence clearly demonstrates the existence of burned peat areas, the detailed analysis of the peat agency’s LiDAR mapping should undoubtedly have classified 2015’s burned peat forests as such.

In addition to the evidence derived from the ministry’s ground-based observations, Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya also legally designated the LiDAR-mapped burned peat forests as burned peat areas in 2015. 

Furthermore, the LiDAR-mapped burned peat forests from 2015 were also incorporated into the peat agency’s indicative targeted peat restoration map as they are considered part of 2015’s burned peat areas.

In light of all this evidence and information, there is no other choice for the peat agency but to immediately correct the detailed analysis of its LiDAR mapping by taking into account the omitted evidence of 2015’s burned peat forests which form part of historical land cover changes in the LiDAR-mapped Kahayan peat hydrological landscape.