Peatland resilience: Knowledge exchange for the conservation and sustainable management of forested tropical peatlands

Lead Research Organisation: University of St Andrews
Department Name: Geography and Sustainable Development

Abstract

Tropical peatlands are one of our planet's most important, and most vulnerable, terrestrial carbon pools, storing over 100 billion tonnes of carbon. They provide ecosystem services and livelihoods for local communities. However, their large carbon stores and unique biodiversity are threatened by human pressures. In Southeast Asia, peatland destruction on a very large scale has been driven by drainage and conversion into oil palm and forestry plantations, while more intact peatlands in the Amazon and Congo basins are currently threatened by the expansion of commercial agriculture and new infrastructure development. Ecological and social studies have demonstrated that avoiding drainage and land use change in peatlands can conserve carbon stocks and mitigate the potentially significant releases of greenhouse gases, while, simultaneously, conservation and sustainable management can help to ensure the provision of products and services to local inhabitants who depend culturally and socioeconomically on peatlands. However, more effective dialogue and long-term relationships are needed between scientists and policymakers to ensure the use of scientific knowledge in public policy and to develop innovative funding strategies for conservation and reduction of carbon emissions due to peatland degradation and deforestation.

Over the last decade, NERC-funded research based on collaborations among institutions in the UK, Amazonia and the Congo basin, has provided scientific evidence on the distribution of tropical peatlands, their unique biodiversity, and the quantity of carbon stored above and below ground. The most extensive peatlands of Amazonia are in Peru; these forested peatlands contain more than twice the carbon stocks of UK peatlands. Permanent forest census plots have been established following standard international protocols to monitor the forest dynamics and peatland resilience in the face of climate change. These data also provide information on the abundance of resources and 'health status' of natural forests that can be used to improve management plans for resource harvesting (e.g. harvest intensity). However, these high-quality peatland inventory and monitoring data are poorly integrated within policy making. Therefore, this KE fellowship aims to build on the unique network of partnerships developed by the applicant with stakeholders and users in Peru to translate ecological and social scientific knowledge on tropical peatlands generated by UK universities into policies and strategies to conserve and manage peatlands sustainably, and expand the reach of the impact across the tropics.

Working with a range of organisations including Peru's Ministry of Environment and National Service of Protected Areas, the project will undertake activities designed to integrate existing scientific data into governmental decision-taking and policy development; develop and test new protocols to facilitate monitoring of peatland ecosystems by government and private companies; and exchange knowledge and understanding with stakeholders and end-users in other peat-rich tropical countries.

Publications

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De Lima RAF (2022) Making forest data fair and open. in Nature ecology & evolution

 
Title Museum exhibition about peatlands 
Description I contributed with photographic material, objects, ideas and information about peatlands to the exhibition "For Peatlands' Sake" led by Katherine Roucoux and Eilidh Lawrence at the Wardlaw Museum. This exhibition aims to create awareness about the importance of Peruvian and Scottish peatlands in reconstructing the past changes in the vegetation and landscapes, in supporting present livelihoods and in mitigating climate change through conservation and sustainable management. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2023 
Impact During 14 weeks of exhibition (29/01/2023 - 07/05/2023), we expect that more than 500 people from the general public will attend the Wardlaw Museum. Attendees will find out more about their role in protecting peatlands, stimulating changes in their perceptions and behavior, for example, by understanding the importance of these ecosystems, the challenges to conserve them and opportunities to contribute to reduce the threats. 
URL https://for-peatlands-sake.wp.st-andrews.ac.uk/
 
Description Integrate actions and strategies specific to peatlands into national initiatives in Peru
Geographic Reach South America 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a guidance/advisory committee
URL https://www.gob.pe/institucion/minam/normas-legales/2708454-019-2022-minam
 
Description Promote long-term peatland resilience in Peru and across the globe
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Citation in systematic reviews
URL https://www.unep.org/resources/global-peatlands-assessment-2022
 
Description Provide support and training for monitoring and improving management plans
Geographic Reach South America 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The implementation of these monitoring protocols by researchers (e.g. me) and non-governmental organizations (e.g. Wildlife Conservation Society - WCS) is demonstrating for the first time the recovery potential of M. flexuosa due to the use of climbing to harvest the palm fruits instead of cutting the palms. Moreover, socioeconomic indicators indicate that local communities can still benefit from peatland natural resources by generating income and maintaining their livelihoods.
URL https://www.gob.pe/institucion/sernanp/normas-legales/3613399-102-2022-sernanp-dganp
 
Description Tropical peatland climate resilience: transforming governance of climate risks for poverty reduction in Indonesia, Peru and the Congo Basin
Amount £200,000 (GBP)
Funding ID KF5210311 
Organisation The British Academy 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 07/2021 
End 04/2023
 
Title Risks to carbon storage from land-use change revealed by peat thickness maps of Peru 
Description Tropical peatlands are among the most carbon dense ecosystems but land-use change has led to the loss of large peatland areas, associated with substantial greenhouse gas emissions. In order to design effective conservation and restoration policies, maps of the location and carbon storage of tropical peatlands are vital. This is especially so in countries such as Peru where the distribution of its large, hydrologically intact peatlands is poorly known. Here, field and remote sensing data support model development of peatland extent and thickness for lowland Peruvian Amazonia. We estimate a peatland area of 62,714 (5th and 95th confidence interval percentiles 58,325-67,102 respectively) km2 and carbon stock of 5.4 (2.6-10.6) Pg C, a value approaching the entire above-ground carbon stock of Peru but contained within just 5% of its land area. Combining the map of peatland extent with national land-cover data we reveal small but growing areas of deforestation and associated CO2 emissions from peat decomposition, due to conversion to mining, urban areas, and agriculture. The emissions from peatland areas classified as forest in 2000 represent 1-4% of Peruvian CO2 forest emissions between 2000 and 2016. We suggest that bespoke monitoring, protection and sustainable management of tropical peatlands are required to avoid further degradation and CO2 emissions 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2022 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact This research dataset has been used to: (1) generate the map of Peruvian peatlands in the Global Peatlands Assessment. This report developed by the Global Peatlands Initiative and the UN Environmental Programme provides a better understanding of what peatlands are, where they are found, what condition they are in and how actions can be taken to protect, restore and sustainably manage them. (2) estimate carbon emissions due to peatland deforestation in the Nationally Determined Contributions of Peru. 
URL https://datashare.ed.ac.uk/handle/10283/4364
 
Description Collaboration with IIAP and Profonanpe 
Organisation Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana
Country Peru 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I contributed with my expertise on peatlands through the development of a project led by the collaborating institutions to assess the carbon stocks of the first carbon project funded by the Green Climate Fund in Peru (Building Resilience in the Wetlands of Datem del Marañon Province, Peru). During preparation for fieldwork, I contributed to developing the methodology to assess the floristic composition and peat of wetland and peatland ecosystems. During preparation of the report, I contributed with data analysis of the floristic composition and provided inputs to the writing report.
Collaborator Contribution The data generated about peat thickness and ecosystem type through this collaboration are contributing to a publication about the spatial distribution of peatlands across the Amazon basin which I am a co-author.
Impact Publications: Hastie et al. (in preparation) A new data-driven map of peat distribution predicts substantial unknown peatland areas in Amazonia.
Start Year 2022
 
Description Collaboration with SRUC and IIAP 
Organisation Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana
Country Peru 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution I contributed with my expertise on peatlands to the development of a research project led by the collaborating institutions. During fieldwork, I led an interdisciplinary team formed by ecological and social researchers that involved surveying vegetation and interviewing local people in different Urarina indigenous communities. The aim of the fieldwork was to understand and value effective indigenous community arrangements to protect and manage peatlands in Peru.
Collaborator Contribution The data generated through this collaboration is contributing to two publications about the peatland ecosystems in Urarina indigenous communities that I am leading (one book chapter and one scientific manuscript).
Impact Publications: Honorio, E. et al. (in review) Wetlands and peatlands in the Urarina indigenous territories: uses, management and carbon. In: Urarina textiles and wetlands. Eds. E. Fabiano & M. Martin. PUCP/IIAP. Honorio, E. et al. (in preparation) Wetlands and peatlands in the Urarina indigenous territories: uses, management and stored carbon.
Start Year 2021
 
Description Collaboration with SRUC and IIAP 
Organisation Scotland's Rural College
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution I contributed with my expertise on peatlands to the development of a research project led by the collaborating institutions. During fieldwork, I led an interdisciplinary team formed by ecological and social researchers that involved surveying vegetation and interviewing local people in different Urarina indigenous communities. The aim of the fieldwork was to understand and value effective indigenous community arrangements to protect and manage peatlands in Peru.
Collaborator Contribution The data generated through this collaboration is contributing to two publications about the peatland ecosystems in Urarina indigenous communities that I am leading (one book chapter and one scientific manuscript).
Impact Publications: Honorio, E. et al. (in review) Wetlands and peatlands in the Urarina indigenous territories: uses, management and carbon. In: Urarina textiles and wetlands. Eds. E. Fabiano & M. Martin. PUCP/IIAP. Honorio, E. et al. (in preparation) Wetlands and peatlands in the Urarina indigenous territories: uses, management and stored carbon.
Start Year 2021
 
Description Collaboration with the Global Peatlands Initiative 
Organisation United Nations (UN)
Department United Nations Environment Programme
Country Kenya 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution I used my expertise on peatlands as a contributing author of the Global Peatlands Assessment led by the Global Peatlands Initiative and UN Environmental Programme. This assessment brings the best available science together to provide a global overview on peatland distribution, status, trends, and pressures. It informs decisions and guide action for the conservation, restoration, and sustainable management of peatlands.
Collaborator Contribution The Global Peatlands Initiative's Research Working Group provided an online training programme for peatlands researchers to help building their capacity, fostering interdisciplinary research and promoting collaboration within the global peatlands research community. This network also offered me opportunities to expand the reach of impact of my research through the Global Peatlands Pavilion, a side event organised at the 26th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Impact Publication: UNEP (2022). Global Peatlands Assessment - The State of the World's Peatlands: Evidence for action toward the conservation, restoration, and sustainable management of peatlands. Main Report. Global Peatlands Initiative. United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi. https://www.unep.org/resources/global-peatlands-assessment-2022 Engagement activity: Exhibition of media about peatlands in Peru at the Global Peatlands Pavilion (1-12 November 2021) including a permanent virtual exhibition at https://storage.net-fs.com/hosting/6147066/7/
Start Year 2021
 
Description Participation in the Science Discovery Day 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact 31 pupils attended for a virtual visit to the Science Discovery Day organised by the University of St Andrews, which released a video written and produced by Euridice Honorio and Calum McAndrew about what lives on the peatlands of Peru. More than 2,000 viewers watched the video after the event, showing the interest of the general public in the subject.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://twitter.com/StAndEngaged/status/1505197413098659844
 
Description Press release of peatland statement 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact 18 reporters attended the press released organised by WCS where three panellists (including Euridice Honorio) were asked about a peatland statement signed by specialists to conserve peatlands, which generated media coverage reports and increased awareness about the need to conserve, manage, and restore peatlands.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://news.mongabay.com/2022/12/scientists-plead-for-protection-of-peatlands-the-worlds-carbon-cap...
 
Description Talk with Prof Monks about sustainable management of wetlands 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact 20 people viewed the online talk in which Dr Katherine Roucoux and Euridice Honorio joined Professor Paul Monks to discuss sustainable management of Amazonian wetland ecosystems, the 30-minute video was released by the Newton Fund as part of a series of short conversations between the BEIS Chief Scientific Adviser and climate scientists.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://www.newton-gcrf.org/impact/climate-action/good-development/
 
Description Workshop for practitioners and professionals on peatlands 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 100 practitioners and professionals attended for a talk about methodologies for estimating peatland greenhouse gas emissions presented by Euridice Honorio in a workshop organised by FAO, which sparked questions and discussion afterwards, and the participants reported increased interest in the topics.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://drive.google.com/file/d/18LyESwVMDcFcKbtZERMijVmGNDb2Ffry/view
 
Description Workshop for practitioners on peatlands 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 10 professional practitioners of different governmental organisations of Peru attended a workshop organised by CIFOR and the University of St Andrews, which sparked questions and discussion afterwards, and the organisations reported increased interest in greenhouse gas emission on peatlands.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2022
URL https://forestsnews.cifor.org/79564/new-tools-and-knowledge-for-monitoring-peatlands-in-peru?fnl=