Peruvian peatlands store large amounts of carbon, which are nationally and globally significant. Mauritia flexuosa palm swamps form the prevailing peatland ecosystem in the Peruvian Amazon. This ecosystem is extensively threatened by degradation caused by the unsustainable practice of cutting whole palms for fruit collection. Despite decades of ongoing degradation, little attention has been paid to evaluating the location and extent of degradation and the magnitude of associated greenhouse gas emissions.
A pilot study conducted recently in a 350,000-ha area in the Pastaza-Marañon Basin demonstrated that 31% of M. flexuosa palm swamp peatlands were strongly degraded, 42% moderately degraded, and 27% had low levels of degradation. The same study also found that human intervention in palm swamp peatlands translated into significant reductions in tree carbon stocks (11 and 17% following medium and high degradation). Furthermore, on-going research by CIFOR suggests peat C losses from high degradation of palm swamp peatlands is higher than the emission factor for drained peat forest lands in the tropics set by the IPCC in the Wetland supplement to the 2006 guidelines for national greenhouse gas inventories. These results suggest that emissions resulting from degradation of palm swamp peatlands may represent a significant share of national emissions, calling for a country-scale characterization and mapping of palms swamp peatland degradation in Peru.
The project aims at supporting the government of Peru in mapping and assessing degradation of palm swamp peatlands in the Amazon region. The objectives of the research are to:
1. Map M. flexuosa palm swamps and other land covers in areas classified as peatlands in the lowland Peruvian Amazon by Gumbricht et al (2017) for the years 1990, 2007 and 2018;
2. Quantify changes in the area and degradation status of palm swamps peatlands for the periods 1990-2007; 2007-2018;
3. Perform a preliminary estimation of CO2 emissions from vegetation changes associated with degradation of palm swamp peatlands over the periods 1990-2007 and 2007-2018.