Protecting biodiversity and sustainable livelihoods in the wetlands of Peruvian Amazonia

Funding Body: Newton-Paulet Institutional Links Grant: British Council Newton Fund (UK) and CONCYTEC (Peru)

Project Duration: 25/02/2019 – 24/02/2020

Project Overview: The Pastaza-Marañón basin in the Peruvian Amazon hosts a complex of wetlands and swamp forests and is home to around 100,000 indigenous and mestizo communities who harvest essential natural resources from these ecosystems. The swamp forests known as aguajales (dominated by the palm Mauritia flexuosa, locally known as aguaje) in particular are socially and economically important because the aguaje fruits provide both food security and a source of cash income through their sale to regional markets. These palm swamps also provide good hunting grounds thanks to the fauna which inhabit this ecosystem. In addition to these direct values to local communities, these ecosystems store large amounts of carbon below ground as peat (highly organic-rich soils) which means they have the potential to form the basis of linked carbon conservation and sustainable management projects which would support both sustainable development for communities and contribute to climate change mitigation.

The traditional method for harvesting aguaje fruits is to cut down the female trees; this is an unsustainable practice. It causes the aguajales to be degraded, diminishing considerably the abundance of female individuals in the forest for the long-term, and therefore diminishing the forest’s capacity to provide resources and ecosystem services. This project investigates the use of resources in the aguajales and the impact on biodiversity and ecosystem function in three regions of the Peruvian Amazon. The project used structured surveys of community members to gather information about perceptions of aguajal degradation, ecological field surveys of plant and animal diversity in aguajales, and measurement of above and below ground carbon stores in aguajales along a gradient of degradation. In collaboration with key interested institutions (regional and local governments, NGOs), our information will be useful to public and private policy debates, and thus promote the sustainable management of Amazonian wetland ecosystems.

Project Aims:

  1. Assess the diversity of plants and animals (mammals), the provision of food, and carbon sequestration in aguajales with different levels of degradation in three contrasting communities of Loreto, Peru.
  2. Explore the socio-cultural value and perceptions of the use of resources, changes and threats due to the degradation of aguajales in these communities.
  3. Build capacity in the area of ecosystem service quantification and increase understanding about the importance of sustainable management of aguajales across the Loreto region.

For more information on the objectives, methodologies and results of each of the three parts of the project, you can follow the links below:

(i) Vegetation and carbon in the aguajales;

(ii) The mammals of the aguajales; and,

(iii) The socio-cultural aspects of the communities that use the aguajales.


Team Members:

Name Role Affiliation/Institute
Euridice Honorio Principal Investigator Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana (IIAP)
Katherine Roucoux Principal Investigator University of St Andrews
Nina Laurie Co-investigator University of St Andrews
Ian Lawson Co-investigator University of St Andrews
Jhon del Aguila Pasquel Co-investigator IIAP
Dennis del Castillo Co-investigator IIAP
Manuel Martin Brañas Co-investigator IIAP
Gabriel Garcia Mendoza Collaborator Asociación Equipo Primatológico de Loreto
Lydia Cole PDRA University of St Andrews
Luis Andueza PDRA University of St Andrews
David Louis Borchers Collaborator University of St Andrews
Andy Baird Collaborator University of Leeds

Project Partners:

Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonia Peruana – IIAP

University of St Andrews

Equipo Primatológico de Loreto

University of Leeds

Autoridad Regional Ambiental del Gobierno Regional de Loreto

Vine Trust



Contact Information: Euridice Honorio ([email protected]), Jhon del Aguila ([email protected]), Katherine Roucoux ([email protected])