Valuing intact tropical peatlands

Funding Body: Leverhulme Trust

Project Duration: January 2019 – June 2021

Project Overview:

The newly described Pastaza-Marañón Foreland Basin (PMFB) peatlands remain largely intact: there has been no substantial deforestation or drainage as their remoteness hinders development. However, new roads are being built and shipping infrastructure installed. While many local people would welcome economic development, it must be reconciled with climate change mitigation, conservation objectives, and varying livelihood priorities. Peatland science in the PMFB has, thus far, had minimal engagement with local communities’ perspectives. The resulting knowledge gap limits academic research to a biased and partial understanding of peatland form, function, and value. Importantly, development and conservation projects may not ultimately benefit the poorest communities if we do not simultaneously address socio-economic and cultural issues, especially the disconnect between western scientific and local knowledge and value systems. Peatlands can be understood in profoundly different ways by different groups of people: scientifically, socially, culturally, and spiritually. By integrating these various perspectives throughout the research process this project aims to produce an understanding of PMFB peatlands that is more comprehensive than the natural sciences can achieve alone. It will address two central research questions:

  1. How are the peatlands changing (in terms of vegetation composition, hydrology, human use)?
  2. What are the values and meanings of peatland ecosystems to local people (i.e. the socio-cultural, spiritual, subsistence, and monetary values of particular peatland environments/species/places)?

Project Aims:

  1. Develop an innovative interdisciplinary partnership approach to research design and implementation in the peatlands of the PMFB.
  2. Generate an intercultural, co-produced knowledge base about peatland ecosystem properties, value(s) and meaning(s).
  3. Develop locally meaningful and accessible outputs and dissemination pathways.

This project is in its infancy, thus the summary above illustrates what our thoughts are on its aims and objectives as we start the interdisciplinary dialogue around research questions, objectives, methods and outputs. The first fieldwork expedition will run through May and June, and we look forward to further refining our approach and the  goals of this project with the people with whom we will be working and co-developing knowledge.

Team Members:

Name Role Affiliation/Institute
Katy Roucoux Principal Investigator St Andrews
Luis Andueza Postdoctoral Social Scientist St Andrews
Manolo Martín Brañas Social Scientist IIAP
Lydia Cole Postdoctoral Ecologist St Andrews
Euridice Honorio Coronado Co-Investigator IIAP
Althea Davies Co-Investigator St Andrews
Nina Laurie Co-Investigator St Andrews
Ed Mitchard Co-Investigator Edinburgh
Cecilia del Carmen Nuñez Perez Social Scientist IIAP
Charlotte Wheeler Postdoctoral Ecologist Edinburgh

Project Partners: IIAP, University of Edinburgh, University of St Andrews

Contact Information: Dr Katherine Roucoux (khr@st-andrews.ac.uk)