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 and human-driven change and support their sustainable management. We use a range of techniques including palaeoecology, ecosystem monitoring, biodiversity assessment, participatory mapping and vegetation 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 and are of extremely high cultural, biological and economic importance. They contain unique biodiversity, high beta diversity and large carbon stocks – particularly below the ground – and the peat deposits found in some of these ecosystems provide an unrivalled archive of past vegetation and environmental change. The forests are home to a wide variety of indigenous groups with a unique cultural understanding of the landscape and the timber and fruit-producing species that occur here sustain a large number of local communities and support the wider regional and national economy.
Our research includes generating high-resolution records of the past 1000-2000 years of change, ecological monitoring of the current trajectory of these ecosystems, intensive measurements and modelling of the different components of the forest carbon cycle, large-scale vegetation mapping using remote sensing products and participatory mapping of forest resources. A major strand of our research focuses 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 how they are used by local communities. We actively work with stakeholders to ensure our findings can be incorporated within policy decisions and management.
Fieldwork and analyses were initially funded by a NERC grant to Drs Katy Roucoux (PI), Ian Lawson and Tim Baker, and subsequently continued with NERC-funded PhD studentships and a grant from the Royal Society. Currently our research is funded by sponsors including NERC, the Scottish Funding Council, the Leverhulme Trust, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, el Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología de Perú CONCYTEC, IIAP and the University of St Andrews. We are indebted to the support of friends at the UK Tropical Peatlands Working Group, the University of Turku and the Peruvian Protected Areas Authority (SERNANP) as well as to many other colleagues and friends elsewhere.