Peatlands in tropical and subtropical environments are much less extensive than peatlands in temperate and especially in boreal regions. Of the global 400 million ha of peatland, tropical peatland only occupies about 8%. About 60% of tropical peatlands are located in Southeast Asia.
Most tropical peatlands occur in the lowlands. They are generally forest covered peat swamps, whereas temperate peatlands are commonly covered by sedges and moss. The high rainfall and high temperatures experienced by tropical lowland peat are the most important environmental parameters differentiating it from temperate-boreal peat.
The knowledge and understanding of tropical peatland is steadily increasing. However, tropical peatland is still very insufficiently investigated and documented compared to temperate and boreal peat, which have been well surveyed, characterized, classified and quantified.
Tropical peatland has suffered from a "Cinderella Syndrome" - unknown and therefore unloved. But now, it is one of the last frontiers of arable land available for agricultural development. Being the last land resource to be exploited for agriculture, tropical peat is also the least researched and least well understood of the tropical soils.