Main Content

The Leuser Ecosystem: A Critical Carbon Sink for the Climate

The Leuser Ecosystem plays an outsize role regulating the global climate by storing massive amounts of carbon in its peatlands and standing forests.


Peatlands are wet, carbon-rich areas that have formed through thousands of years of undecomposed leaf litter and organic material accumulation.

When these areas are drained and the peat is exposed to air, it begins to oxidize and releases large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere, a peat degradation process that carries on, year after year, for decades. The dried out peat is also highly flammable, and recurring, human ignited fires send up huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere, which in bad fire years has been estimated to be as much as the fossil fuel emissions of all of Western Europe. Indonesia is ranked the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions in the world after China and the United States, with 50 percent estimated to be coming from peat emissions and an additional 30 percent from deforestation.

Explore the connection between the Leuser Ecosystem, out of control fires, and the global climate.