‘Aguaje and apple’, anyone?

The CIFOR organised meeting ‘El contexto científico y el marco institucional para la gestión sostenible de las turberas en el Perú’ proved a good opportunity to catch up with the latest peatland science and efforts to manage peatlands in Peru. Organised by Kristell Hergoualc’h and Natalia Malaga, it brought together a novel combination of people working with the peatlands in the Andes and Amazon and demonstrated the important convening role that CIFOR can play in bringing scientists and policymakers together.

Three things stood out for me. Firstly, there was a notable alignment among speakers from national and regional government organisations to support peatland management. Of course, there is plenty to do to align the various official conservation strategies and initiatives to integrate peatlands effectively in national policy. However, I hadn’t heard such consistent enthusiasm and understanding of the issues before from such a wide range of organisations.

Secondly, there is tangible action as well. José Alvarez, (now Director General de Diversidad Biológica at the Environment Ministry), described the soon-to-be-released ‘aguaje and apple’ drink by AJE (itself a fascinating Peruvian success story that emerged from the troubled 1980s) as part of their new Bio range. Increasing the market for aguaje-based products is undoubtedly one part of the solution to managing the peatlands sustainably.

Thirdly, it was encouraging from my own ecological perspective, to see how the relatively new concept of the ‘peatland pole forests’ – the forest type that is found on the oldest, ombrotrophic peatlands in Amazonia – is being understood, accepted and integrated within discussions about peatlands. Jose Alvarez gave a warm appreciation of the unique bird species contained in these ecosystems, and their links to the better-known pole forests that grow on white sand soils.

So, it was a good meeting; but of course it is all underpinned by getting out and working to understand these peatlands. In that context, its amazing to think of all the fieldwork that is now kicking off by the remarkable collective of people leading and involved in the Tropical Wetlands Consortium. Teams will map aguaje populations using drones, understand how communities use these ecosystems and how they are degraded, validate maps of peatland extent based on remote sensing images, and address a whole range of other questions. Truly interdisciplinary and very exciting.

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