Tropical peat surface oscillations are a function of peat condition at North Selangor peat swamp forest, Malaysia

Martha J. Ledger, Chris D. Evans, David J. Large, Stephanie Evers, Chloe Brown, A. Jonay Jovani-Sancho, Nathan Callaghan, Christopher H. Vane, Chris Marshall, Abirami Baskaran, Jing Ye Gan, Andrew Sowter, Keith Morrison, Sofie Sjögersten

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Tropical peatland condition across southeast Asia is deteriorating as a result of conversion to agriculture and urban zones. Conversion begins by lowering the water table, which leads to peat decomposition, subsidence and increased risk of large-scale forest fires. Associated changes in mechanical peat properties impact the magnitude and timing of changes in peatland surface motion, making them a potential proxy for peatland condition. However, such a relationship is yet to be observed in a tropical peatland setting. This study aimed to establish whether patterns of tropical peatland surface motion were a function of peat condition at North Selangor Peat Swamp Forest in Selangor, Malaysia. Results showed that subsidence was greatest at fire-affected scrubland sites, whilst the lowest mean water table levels were found at smallholder oil palm sites. Peat condition and magnitude of tropical peat surface oscillation were significantly different between peat condition classes, whilst peat condition differed with depth. More degraded tropical peats with high bulk density throughout the peat profile due to high surface loading and low mean water table levels showed greater surface oscillation magnitudes. The dominant peat surface oscillation mechanisms present at all sites were compression and shrinkage from changes in water table level. Mean water table level and subsidence rate were related to surface oscillation magnitude. However further work towards measuring surface and within-water table range bulk densities and surface loading is required to better understand the controls on surface oscillation magnitudes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1182100
JournalFrontiers in Environmental Science
Publication statusPublished - 8 Aug 2023


  • hydraulic conductivity
  • peat condition
  • peat elasticity
  • subsidence
  • surface oscillation
  • tropical peat
  • volume change
  • water table


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