Skip to main content
Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2022

Rising dissolved organic carbon concentrations in coastal waters of northwestern Borneo related to tropical peatland conversion

Sanwlani, Nivedita; Evans, Chris D.; Muller, Moritz; Cherukuru, Nagur; Martin, Patrick;


Southeast Asia's peatlands are considered a globally important source of terrigenous dissolved organic carbon (DOC) to the ocean. Human disturbance has probably increased peatland DOC fluxes, but the lack of monitoring has precluded a robust demonstration of such a regional-scale impact. Here, we use a time series of satellite ocean color data from northwestern Borneo to show that DOC concentrations in coastal waters have increased between 2002 and 2021 by 0.31 mu mol liter(-1) year(-1) (95% confidence interval, 0.18 to 0.44 mu mol liter(-1) year(-1)). We show that this was caused by a >= 30% increase in the concentration of terrigenous DOC and coincided with the conversion of 69% of regional peatland area to nonforest land cover, suggesting that peatland conversion has substantially increased DOC fluxes to the sea. This rise in DOC concentration has also increased the underwater light absorption by dissolved organic matter, which may affect marine productivity by altering underwater light availability.

Published in

Science Advances

2022, volume: 8, number: 15, article number: eabi5688

Authors' information

Sanwlani, Nivedita
Nanyang Technological University
Evans, Chris D.
UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (UKCEH)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Aquatic Sciences and Assessment
Evans, Chris D.
University of Johannesburg
Muller, Moritz
Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak
Cherukuru, Nagur
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
Martin, Patrick
Nanyang Technological University

UKÄ Subject classification

Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Oceanography, Hydrology, Water Resources

Publication Identifiers


URI (permanent link to this page)