New article in Conservation Biology on protecting intact tropical peatlands

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:

Carbon stock estimates underpin major new conservation project in Peru

Our work has been used to provide the science basis – the carbon stock estimates (Draper et al. 2014) – for a major new $6 million conservation project in Peru. This is the first conservation project to be funded by the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the major international funding mechanism that has been created to fund mitigation and adaptation to climate change in developing countries.

The full implementation of the Green Climate Fund  – intended to transfer funds of 100 billion dollars annually from developed to developing countries – is a major component of the UNFCCC negotiations that will be held in Paris over the next two weeks. The fund remains a contentious issue, as it touches on a key area of discord between nations: how countries that have contributed most to causing climate change, should compensate the nations that have contributed little, but will suffer the most. We are pleased that our science underpins the very first project to be approved by this fund, and is thereby helping the GCF to be seen as a credible and effective way of funding adaptation and mitigation of climate change, and support the emergence of a strong, effective and globally-binding deal during COP21 in Paris over the next two weeks.

The $6 million investment in conservation is an innovative project that will promote and develop sustainable ‘bio-businesses’  run by a range of indigenous communities in the Pastaza and Morona rivers of the northern Peruvian Amazon. These businesses will increase the incomes of these communities based on sustainable harvesting of the forest products such as palm fruit, and ensure that the extensive peatlands in this region are not degraded. As a result, the large carbon stores in this ecosystems will remain in the ground, as peat.

To read more about the GCF, see The project we are associated with is the first of the eight projects accepted in the first tranche of funding and is called ‘Building resilience of wetlands in the province of Datem del Maranon’.