Tropical peatlands store globally significant quantities of carbon and are ecologically and culturally important, but little is known about their vulnerability to oil and gas exploration and extraction. Here, we analyse the exposure of tropical peatlands to the activities of the petroleum industry and review what is known about the sensitivity of peatlands to these activities. We find that 8.3% (107,000 km2) of the total area of tropical peatlands overlaps with a 30-km buffer area around oil and gas infrastructure. Major areas of overlap include the Sumatra Basin (Indonesia), the Niger Delta (Nigeria) and the Putumayo-Oriente-Marañón Basin (Peru/Ecuador/Colombia). Documented environmental impacts include deforestation and habitat loss associated with the exploration and development of oil fields, and contamination from spills of oil and produced water (well brine). Peatlands, and the ecosystem services they provide, are sensitive to these impacts due to unique aspects of their ecology and hydrology, the easy spread of contamination by flowing water, the long-term storage of contaminants in peat, and the slow degradation of oil under anoxic, waterlogged conditions. Given the potential negative consequences for human health, resource security, biodiversity, and carbon storage, we propose a research agenda to provide an improved evidence base to support effective governance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)84-114
Number of pages31
JournalProgress in Environmental Geography
Issue number1-4
Early online date10 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2022


  • Indonesia
  • Nigeria
  • Petroleum
  • Pollution
  • Peru
  • Sustainable development


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