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Case Studies

Regenerating Sumatran Ecosystems by Managing Acid Sulfate Soils

January 12, 2022
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EESI were engaged to provide technical advice, as well as input to the development of control and management systems for a 10,000 hectare agricultural plantation in Sumatra, which was completely underlain by acid sulfate soils. Without careful management, disturbing acid sulfate soils can have serious downstream environmental, economic, engineering and health impacts, and can restrict development, construction and agriculture in affected areas. The primary challenge was to develop a sustainable approach to manage the acid sulphate soils without triggering adverse downstream effects. The complexity of this task was amplified by the varied risk classifications of soil layers at different depths, each requiring a unique handling strategy.


The EESI team’s response to this challenge was multi-faceted and evolved over several visits. Philip Mulvey’s initial visit in November 2009, followed by Mark Stuckey’s visits in September 2010 and August 2011, were key in shaping the project’s direction. These visits included numerous field inspections and soil profile assessments in collaboration with the estate’s agronomic staff.

Our approach included altering drain construction methodologies and remediating constructed drains, vital for managing rainfall runoff and water tables effectively. The development of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for soil management, water sampling, and water gate management, alongside soil and piezometer sampling, was crucial in establishing consistent and effective practices. Another significant aspect was the remediation by reburial of grey clays at depth, ensuring that sensitive soil layers were managed appropriately. The team also focused on purchasing field monitoring equipment, enhancing our capability to monitor and adjust our strategies in real-time.

Additionally, Philip Mulvey and Mark Stuckey conducted seminars for the estate staff, highlighting our commitment to knowledge transfer and capacity building.


EESI’s intervention led to a considerable improvement in water quality both onsite and offsite and the successful revegetation of areas previously affected by acid scalds. This demonstrated effective management of runoff from acid sulfate soils, substantially reducing the impact on local ecosystems.

The ongoing training provided to local operators and the development of SOPs ensured the estate was continuously and effectively monitored. The introduction of new methodologies and equipment played a significant role in these improvements, showcasing the project’s positive impact on the estate’s operational efficiency and sustainability.

Our collaboration with the estate’s agronomic staff and the transfer of knowledge through seminars underscored our commitment to empowering local teams and ensuring the project’s lasting positive impact.

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