‘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.

Valuing Intact Tropical Peatlands: Leverhulme project meeting 1

The Leverhulme project team met in St Andrews 1st – 4th April for the first planning meeting of the project. Although we’ve been emailing, and Skyping, and meeting to discuss project plans since January, this was the first time all of us (with only a couple of exceptions) met together in person. Manuel Martin Branas, Cecelia Ninez Perez and Euridice Honorio Coronado joined us from IIAP in Iquitos, Peru. It was great to have other Tropical Wetlands Consortium members Donna Hawthorne, Adam Hastie, Dael Sasson, Anna Macphie, Gabriel Hidalgo, at the meeting too; thanks to everyone for coming aong and participating with such enthusiasm. A day in the field, learning about UK peatlands and trying out some of the methods which will be used in Peru, was a welcome break from two and a half days of intense discussion in wood-panelled meeting rooms. We look forward to meeting again in Iquitos in May to begin the fieldwork in earnest.

 

 

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CongoPeat project formally begins

A new NERC-funded five-year project to study the peatlands of the central Congo basin has been announced. The project, led by Simon Lewis at the University of Leeds/UCL, involves a multidisciplinary team from the UK and the RoC. Dr Ian Lawson of the University of St Andrews is leading Work Package 1, which aims to … Read more

New postdoctoral research vacancies at the University of St Andrews

We are pleased to announce three vacancies for postdoctoral research fellows, based at the University of St Andrews, to work on newly-funded projects about tropical peatlands. For further information about the posts and how to apply, please follow the link below (and narrow the search by “School of Geography and Sustainable Development.” http://www.vacancies.st-andrews.ac.uk/LoginV2.aspx?enc=vDVLPY6BrOnmx9szwB5icMU/Bp97ap1BlI/jb0LhRYVeoh/cn5bYgvW+9EbbSw7a One of … Read more

Monitoring tropical wetlands as a tool for the conservation of Amazonian biodiversity

Harvesting fruits of ‘aguaje’ (Mauritia flexuosa) palms is a profitable activity for local communities in the wetlands of the Peruvian Amazon, and potentially the key to the long-term conservation of these ecosystems. However, expanding and ensuring the sustainability of this activity depends on maintaining the ‘health’ of aguaje populations, Aguaje is dioecious – which means … Read more

Coding

Christopher, Nina, Katy and Ian spent an interesting few hours surrounded by post-it notes, thinking through how to ‘code’ (analyse) the 51 interview transcripts, amounting to something like 150,000 words, generated by our SFC-ODA project on valuing peatlands in Amazonian Peru. Many interesting themes emerged – not least the myths, legends and superstitions that surround … Read more

New project to investigate the human dimension of Peruvian peatlands

We are pleased to announce the start of a new project at St Andrews entitled “Valuing Intact Tropical Peatlands”, funded by the Scottish Funding Council (ODA). The project takes the interests of the interests of the Tropical Wetland Consortium in a new, interdisciplinary direction – aiming to improve our understanding of how people use and … Read more

New paper on Amazonian peatland forests

Freddie Draper and colleagues have a new paper in Ecography, online as an accepted article. The paper, Peatland forests are the least diverse tree communities documented in Amazonia, but contribute to high regional beta-diversity, uses floristic data from a network of plots to show that peatland palm swamps and pole forests host distinctive floras. Although, at … Read more