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Cycle 9 (2020 Deadline)

Multi-scale, interdisciplinary, integrated analysis of societal and ecosystem values of Peruvian Amazon peatlands

PI: Sandra Ríos Cáceres (, Instituto del Bien Común, with co-PIs Aoife Bennett (, Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, and Jorge Solignac Ruíz and Jose David Urquiza Muñoz, Universidad Nacional de la Amazonia Peruana
U.S. Partners: Hinsby Cadillo-Quiroz, Arizona State University; and Victor Gutiérrez-Vélez, Temple University
Project Dates: April 2022 - March 2024

Project Overview:
While the peatlands of Southeast Asia have long been recognized as threatened major stores of carbon, the tropical peatlands of Amazonia have only recently begun to be identified. Their distribution, depth, carbon content, and socioeconomic dynamics are not well known. Furthermore, existing knowledge is largely based on remote-sensing data with little field validation, and almost no engagement with local peoples. This project aims to carry out this research in the two focus areas of Loreto and Ucayali in the Peruvian Amazon. Loreto has an estimated area of 35,000 km2 of peatlands, but only 35 plots (each of 0.5-1 hectares) have been sampled, representing 0.00001% of verified peatlands. Ucayali is predicted to host thousands of km2 of peatlands, but has almost no field verification. Indigenous and smallholder communities live inside and close to known peatlands, and they will play a central role in managing and conserving them going forward. However, outside of a few sites in Loreto, there has been no rigorous assessment of how local people value and use these peatlands, and no explicit research into opportunities for collaborative conservation beyond the sustainable use of the over-harvested aguaje palm tree.

This project team aims to co-create new knowledge on the distribution of peatlands, their carbon storage, and how local people understand, use, and steward these ecosystems. The project uses interdisciplinary methods including ecosystem inventories, remote sensing, and qualitative and quantitative social science methods and will develop social-ecological maps of the regions that will be used by national, regional, and local government agencies, indigenous organizations and communities, and international actors pursuing conservation through carbon markets. This novel research will collect new information about peatlands that have never before been studied, not only examining peatlands from an ecological perspective but also centering human communities and empowering them to help shape future conservation initiatives. It is timely because this information is urgently needed to fill national and international data needs crucial for addressing climate change.

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