Tropical peat swamp forest is a unique ecosystem that is most extensive in Southeast Asia, where it is under enormous threat from logging, fire, and land conversion. Recent research has shown this ecosystem's significance as a global carbon store, but its value for biodiversity remains poorly understood. We review the current status and biological knowledge of tropical peat swamp forests, as well as the impacts of human disturbances. We demonstrate that these forests have distinct floral compositions, provide habitat for a considerable proportion of the region's fauna, and are important for the conservation of threatened taxa, particularly specialized freshwater fishes. However, we estimate that only 36% of the historical peat swamp forest area remains, with only 9% currently in designated protected areas. Given that peat swamp forests are more vulnerable to synergies between human disturbances than other forest ecosystems, their protection and restoration are conservation priorities that require urgent action.
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Vol. 61 • No. 1