How do fire emissions from industrial plantations affect air quality in Equatorial SEA?

Researchers have combined satellite observations with atmospheric modelling to calculate how fires associated with industrial concessions in the Sumatra and Kalimantan regions of Indonesia affect air quality across Equatorial Asia.

The findings, published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters, show that these industrial plantation-related fires make up almost half of the total fire emissions in Sumatra and Kalimantan.

The researchers, based at Columbia University, USA, and Harvard University, USA, studied the oil palm, logging, and (for wood pulp and paper) industries, and demonstrated that fires located in timber and oil palm concessions in Sumatra and Kalimantan, respectively, make the biggest contributions to air pollution.

"Our results show the importance in limiting the use of fire by these industries," explains Dr Miriam Marlier, of Columbia University, a lead author on the paper. "Especially in areas of land particularly susceptible to burning, such as degraded peatlands and deforested areas."

Air quality in Indonesia is an important topic, with the country ranking 112 of 178 in the 2014 Environmental Performance Index1, and the country being the 3rd highest producer of greenhouse gases in the world2.

Proximity to the polluting areas plays an important role—the lower emissions from Sumatra had a greater effect on Singapore than the higher emission levels observed in Kalimantan.

"Limiting the use of fires by these industries—particularly the palm oil and timber concessions—will obviously improve things." continues Dr Marlier. "Failing this, limiting the re-classification of logging concessions, where we observed low fire activity, to and timber concessions will limit the public health impacts of these emissions."

Dr Marlier and her colleagues next plan is to see how these results are effected by yearly climate variations, and estimate the costs of air quality degradation caused by these industries.

Explore further

Palm oil companies behind Singapore smog, Greenpeace says

More information: Fire emissions and regional air quality impacts from fires in oil palm, timber, and logging concessions in Indonesia Environmental Research Letters 10 085005.
Journal information: Environmental Research Letters

Citation: How do fire emissions from industrial plantations affect air quality in Equatorial SEA? (2015, August 11) retrieved 19 July 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more