The Tropical Wetlands Consortium brings together a multidisciplinary team of researchers that aims to understand the past and present sensitivity of these important ecosystems to environmental change. We use a range of techniques from palaeoecology, ecosystem monitoring, biodiversity assessment and modelling to address this issue and are based principally at the University of St Andrews, the University of Leeds (UK) and the Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana (IIAP – Iquitos, Peru).

Tropical wetlands comprise a wide diversity of ecosystems, from seasonally flooded forests to extensive deep peatlands. They contain unique species, high beta diversity and large carbon stocks – particularly below the ground. These peat deposits are also archives of past vegetation and environmental change. Obtaining a long-term perspective on the history of these ecosystems is critical to putting current ecosystem changes into perspective.

Our research centres on generating high-resolution records of the past 1000-2000 years linked to ecological monitoring of current trends in these ecosystems. A high-resolution palaeoecological approach requires analysis of very rapidly accumulating sequences of peat or lake sediment. We focus on the fast-growing peats that are abundant in parts of the Peruvian Amazon. A major strand of our research is focusing on the role and sensitivity of these peatlands as stores of carbon, and we are also interested in how the unique plant communities found in these environments develop over time, and in developing explanations for their present-day biogeographical patterning.

Fieldwork and analyses were initially funded by a NERC grant to Drs Katy Roucoux (PI), Ian Lawson and Tim Baker (Grant no. NE/H011773/1), and subsequently continuing with NERC-funded PhD studentships and a grant from the Royal Society (see our posts on this site under the “Grants” category for a full listing). We are indebted to the support of our project partners and friends at the UK Tropical Peatlands Working Group, The University of Turku, and The Open University, as well as to many other colleagues and friends elsewhere.

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