University of St Andrews

New article in Conservation Biology led by Katy Roucoux and Ian Lawson

Monday 20 March 2017

In an article published this month in the journal Conservation Biology, SGSD lecturers Roucoux, Lawson and colleagues identify and map threats to the recently-described intact peatlands of the Pastaza-Marañón Foreland Basin in north-east Peru, the largest peatland area in Amazonia. They highlight the need to protect these peatlands to avoid future degradation, and identify several key pathways for conservation.

Lead author Katy Roucoux states: “The key to preserving peatlands is maintaining their water balance; you need to keep the water table high if the carbon is to stay in the ground. In our study area the main threat to peatland health is the expansion of commercial agriculture linked to the development of new transport infrastructure which makes it easier for companies to access remote areas.”

Although some of the peatlands in the PMFB were found to fall within existing legally protected areas such as national parks, this protection is patchy, weak and not focused on protecting the most carbon-rich areas.

Co-author Ian Lawson explained that: “By mapping areas with legal protection onto our model of peatland distribution in the PMFB, we found that some of the peatlands are protected but that the most carbon-rich peatlands are actually completely unprotected and therefore vulnerable to the effects of future economic development in the region.”

The article argues that conservation efforts should be focused in the first instance on the most carbon-rich peatlands, such as those north of the Marañón which currently lie entirely outside of the legally protected areas.

The paper’s authors are based in the School of Geography and Sustainable Development at the University of St Andrews (Roucoux, Lawson), the University of Leeds (Baker), University of Edinburgh (Mitchard), University of Reading (Kelly), Instituto de Investigacion de la Amazonía Peruana (del Castillo Torres, Honorio Coronado), Carnegie Institution for Science, Washington DC (Draper), Arizona State University (Lahteenoja), George Mason University (Gilmore), and the Field Museum, Chicago (Vriesendorp).

For further information, please select the accepted manuscript.

The photo below shows peat sampling.

Photo of peat sampling