Peru is host to the third largest peatland area of all tropical countries, with an estimated area of 50,000 to 75,000 square kilometres. The country is now taking rapid steps towards agreeing on national peatland definitions and advancing with mapping.
Peatlands are the earth’s largest natural terrestrial organic carbon store, storing more carbon than all vegetation in the world combined. Peatlands are also a refuge of biodiversity, home to many endemic species. They support communities with water and help regulate waterflows. In wet, pristine condition, many peatlands in Peru also offer options for livelihoods, such as fruits and berries, fibre, fish and game.
Contemporary research underscores the immediate need to take action to limit global warming to avoid mass extinction, ecosystem degradation and natural disasters. But, in order to determine the right actions, land use planners need better information to maintain the carbon already stored in ecosystems. Peatland conservation and restoration is being recognized by an increasing number of countries as fundamental to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, support adaptive capacity and conserve biodiversity.
Prioritising high-carbon ecosystems and integrating them into national frameworks, plans, policies and legislation is essential to safeguarding ecosystem services, avoiding emissions and generating alternative livelihood options. National frameworks for peatland management are key to establishing the basis for strategies that enable the achievement of international commitments, such as the Paris Climate Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals. However, in order to take peatlands into account, better information on their location is paramount. FAO has developed much needed normative guidance on peatland mapping and monitoring as well as technical solutions in the SEPAL platform to enable this.
Current actions in Peru are trying to find synergies between recent efforts by the public and private sectors, academia, civil society and international development agencies for advancing peatland management and mapping, among other matters. Peatland maps, and other updated information, will improve knowledge of the degradation status and the greenhouse gas emission potential of Peru´s peatlands. A wealth of work has been done in recent years to map the Amazonian, forested peatlands. The data, which is being generated, among others, by FAO, Greifswald Mire Centre and other partners, could support land use planning that helps to avoid and reduce emissions. It can also help further develop a Measurement Reporting and Verification system that accounts for the soil carbon pools. Actions to preserve Peruvian peatlands will contribute to the overall goals of the country's National Strategy on Forests and Climate Change (ENBCC), a strategy supported by the Global Peatlands Initiative and the UN-REDD Programme.
In 2019, Peru started the development of national guidelines for peatland definition and identification based on technical and scientific evidence in order to reach agreement among the key stakeholder groups, including international academia. These guidelines will be integrated within the existing Wetland Framework to facilitate the development of instruments and tools, research and possible financial mechanisms that support the conservation and sustainable management of peatlands. The National Wetlands Committee is now reviewing the guideline document before its institutionalization. This is a great advancement for peatland awareness and management in Latin America and will help in generating the Peruvian peatland maps.
Peru is one of the pilot countries of the Global Peatlands Initiative (GPI), along with Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia. In Peru, the GPI supports the government by increasing awareness of the environmental and socio-economic importance of peatlands. As a key action, the initiative helps with integrating peatlands into national frameworks to combat climate change and conserve biodiversity. To kick-off the initiative’s activities in Peru, FAO, UNEP and Greifswald Mire Centre collaborated with the Peruvian Ministry, MINAM, organizing a series of online sessions commencing in May, 2020 to engage all stakeholders in building a pathway for sustainable peatland management.
By seeking synergies, combining information and developing capacity, the Global Peatlands Initiative aims to support peatland-related decision-making in Peru. To guide capacity development efforts, stakeholders from 38 organizations working on peatlands were requested to respond to a needs and gaps assessment survey. The results highlighted the need to strengthen the institutional setting and join efforts from professionals from different disciplines to better understand these high-carbon ecosystems. A special area highlighted was mapping and monitoring of peatlands which would benefit both the present and future work of participating organizations, given that detailed, scaled and field-validated maps are still lacking for most regions in Peru.
Ecosystem services and financial mechanisms for peatland management, restoration and conservation are among the highest priority issues for capacity development . In Peru, there is growing interest in the link between peatland conservation projects and REDD+ which stakeholders also highlighted. On this front, integrating peatlands into National Forest Monitoring Systems, such as the Forest Cover Module is urgently needed to ensure peatlands’ carbon storage.
Understanding the capacity needs allows professionals and practitioners to formulate informed climate actions for sustainable peatland management in Peru. Close collaboration between government officials in designing the National Peatland Framework, alongside experts that have worked for years to protect peatlands in Peru, has and will continue to be instrumental in the advancement of concrete actions.