To protect wetlands, reach for your toolbox

CIFOR has released a new suite of tools to help those protecting vulnerable coastal forests.
Wetlands—especially forested wetlands—are undergoing very high deforestation rates. Aulia Erlangga / CIFOR

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BOGOR, Indonesia—Policy makers and practitioners just got another tool to protect tropical wetlands from destruction and degradation.

Or to be precise, a whole toolbox.

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) launched a learning toolbox for its Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation Mitigation Program (SWAMP), a research program that aims to inform policy makers on the crucial role of tropical wetlands in climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies.

The importance of preserving tropical wetlands—mangrove and peat forests—is ever clearer. They store inordinate amounts of carbon. They protect coastlines and wildlife. They are sources of food and water for people.

And they’re being lost at a frightful pace.

Indonesia, home to most of the world’s mangrove forests, has lost more than 26 percent of them since 1980—the equivalent of losing an area the size of New York City every 18 months.

Meanwhile, more than 100,000 hectares of peatland forests are destroyed each year for oil palm and agricultural plantations. A study found that of the 3,300 tons of carbon per hectare stored in Indonesia’s coastal peatland areas, up to half would be released into the atmosphere over the 100 years following conversion to oil palm plantations—the equivalent of 2,800 years’ worth of accumulated carbon.

Where to begin the daunting task of compiling evidence—and crafting policy—to protect these places?

Enter the SWAMP toolbox. A series of online and downloadable presentations on climate change, wetland ecosystems and how climate change adaptation and mitigation approaches can be developed in wetland ecosystems, the toolbox includes global, national and local perspectives and can be used as a training and educational resource for academia, policy makers and practitioners. It is the latest among a series of capacity building initiatives in SWAMP, which has already trained 300 people across the 25 countries the program operates in.

Forests News sat down briefly with CIFOR Principal Scientist Daniel Murdiyarso to talk about the SWAMP program and how the toolbox can be used. An edited transcript of the interview appears below the video.

Question: What is the SWAMP project?

Answer: SWAMP is a collaborative program between CIFOR, the US Forest Service and Oregon State University. It was developed five or six years ago when we tried to approach and work with policy makers, with practitioners. We recognize a need to really build their capacity to understand what wetlands are all about, related to climate change.

Q:  What does SWAMP aim to achieve?

A: We try to build the capacity of policy makers, mainly, by providing them with credible information regarding wetlands. Working with the scientific community to develop and build their capacity in assessing carbon stocks, climate change impact, and also the implications of sea-level rise.

Q: Why are wetlands so important in climate change mitigation and adaptation?

A: Wetlands are known to have very large carbon storage. So, it is important to use these ecosystems to mitigate climate change. But, at the same time, wetlands—especially forested wetlands—are undergoing very high deforestation rates. So the storage of carbon in this ecosystem is threatened.

Q: So what is the SWAMP toolbox?

A: The SWAMP Toolbox [consists of] teaching materials to help stakeholders understanding climate change, the importance of wetlands, and also the application in terms of developing projects in wetlands. The toolbox can be used as teaching material, so someone can look up our website and download it. But there’s also self-taught kind of materials, or one can learn how the toolbox is used and what it covers from the website. The main users of the toolbox are those dealing with capacity building and training.

Q: How can practitioners benefit from using the toolbox?

A: In the toolbox, there are a number of principles regarding the importance of wetlands in climate change adaptation and mitigation. So, practitioners can use it as background information to develop carbon projects in wetlands. Wetland ecosystems are particularly important for Indonesia, because most of the wetlands—namely peatlands and mangroves—are located here. So, it’s very strategic to develop and conserve our wetlands for climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Visit the SWAMP Toolbox at For more information about SWAMP, please contact Daniel Murdiyarso at

The SWAMP project is funded in part by USAID and forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry

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Topic(s) :   Blue carbon, mangroves and peatlands Deforestation Peatlands Community forestry Oil palm Wetlands Rights Indonesian Wetlands