Ian Lawson, Katy Roucoux, Tim Baker, Ed Mitchard and Mat Williams have been awarded NERC funding to continue their research into Amazonian peatlands. The project, “Carbon Storage in Amazonian Peatlands: Distribution and Dynamics”, will run for three years and aims to improve our understanding of the distribution and functioning of these globally-significant ecosystems.
Ian Lawson convened a session on “Peatlands in the tropics and beyond”, along with Claudio Zanelli, Sue Page, Hinsby Cuadrillo-Quiroz, and Jorg Kaduk, at EGU in Vienna. The session took place, appropriately, in the basement, in a packed room. Talks spanned a range of topics, including conservation, biochemistry and palaeoecology, from sites across the tropics (and one site in the Mediterranean as well). The talks were followed in the evening by a very well-attended poster session, including a poster by Ian and Katy Roucoux.
Greenpeace have published an interesting take on our recent paper on conserving intact peatlands here.
In an article published this month in the journal Conservation Biology, Katy Roucoux and co-authors identify and map threats to the recently-described intact peatlands of the Pastaza-Marañón Foreland Basin (PMFB) in north-east Peru. We highlight the need to protect these peatlands to avoid future degradation, and identify several key pathways for conservation.
In our study area the main threat to peatlands appears to be the expansion of commercial agriculture linked to the development of new transport infrastructure, which makes it easier for companies to access remote areas. Although some of the peatlands in the PMFB were found to fall within existing legally protected areas such as national parks, this protection is patchy, weak and not focused on protecting the most carbon-rich areas.
The article points out the considerable opportunities for conserving carbon stocks while at the same time addressing social and economic development goals in the region. The UN Green Climate Fund project in Datem del Marañón is a good example of the potential for peatlands to attract substantial amounts of money that can be used for sustainable development.
The paper’s authors are based in the School of Geography and Sustainable Development at the University of St Andrews (Roucoux, Lawson), the University of Leeds (Baker), University of Edinburgh (Mitchard), University of Reading (Kelly), Instituto de Investigacion de la Amazonía Peruana (del Castillo Torres, Honorio Coronado), Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington DC (Draper), Arizona State University (Lahteenoja), George Mason University (Gilmore), and the Field Museum, Chicago (Vriesendorp).
Link to the accepted manuscript: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/cobi.12925/full
Katy Roucoux co-organized a session on “Palaeoecology of tropical ecosystems” at Annual Meeting of the Society for tropical Ecology (GTö) in Brussels, on 6th–10th February 2017. She also presented a talk on “The contribution of palaeoecology to tropical peatland science.”
Drs Ed Mitchard, Ian Lawson and Simon Mudd are advertising a PhD position under the SAGES competition. Based in Edinburgh, the student will develop remote-sensing and fieldwork-based approaches to mapping peat properties in the Peruvian Amazon, building on previous work by Draper et al. For more information, see FindAPhd.
A new paper led by Greta Dargie and co-authored by Ian Lawson in Nature reports the existence of 145,000 km2 of peatlands in the Cuvette Centrale of the Congo Basin. We estimate carbon storage at around 31.4 Gt C. This discovery increases the best estimate of carbon storage in tropical peatlands by about 30%.
A new paper in Palaeo3 by our group is now online here. The paper, “The vegetation history of an Amazonian domed peatland” by Kelly et al., reports the first pollen record from a domed mire in Amazonia. The record includes the first evidence from the region for discontinuous peat accumulation, which suggests that carbon sequestration may be sensitive to changes in boundary conditions (including climate). The record indicates that, unlike some domed peatlands in Panama and SE Asia, the pattern of change down-core appears not to match the spatial pattern of vegetation across the site. Finally, it indicates that the present-day vegetation at the site, a type of pole forest, has only been present in its current form for c. 200 years. Overall the record shows that these systems are impressively dynamic, with several substantial changes in vegetation composition over the ~2000 years that peat has been accumulating at the site. This work was funded by a NERC grant to Katy Roucoux et al., and by Tom Kelly’s NERC-funded PhD project, with additional fieldwork support from the RGS.
Ian Lawson and colleagues from the UK Tropical Peat Working Group are organizing a session on “Tropical Peatlands” at EGU in April 2017. The call for abstracts is open with a deadline of 11 January 2017. All submissions welcome! The details of the session are here – the hope is to stimulate comparisons of peatlands across the tropics, building particularly on recent results from the Americas and Africa, but also benefiting from progress in SE Asia.