Tropical peatlands: combatting climate change

Case study

The challenge

To identify, map and ultimately preserve tropical peatlands, helping to combat climate change and support the communities that live there.  

The solution 

Professors Tim Baker and Simon Lewis with colleagues from Peru, the Republic of Congo and across the UK used extensive observations and measurements in the field with optical and radar-based sensing to identify and map tropical peatlands in Amazonian Peru and the Congo basin. For the first time, they established the true extent and importance of these peatlands as carbon stores. Their research also identified numerous threats to the survival of the peatlands and described pathways for their protection, that include sustainable management of resources from these forests to support the livelihoods of communities that live in these regions. 

The impact

These peatlands store more carbon than ever imagined: 30.6 billion tonnes in the Congo basin, and 3.14 billion tonnes in Peru. Combined, this is the equivalent of 3 years’ worth of global fossil fuel emissions. This research has led to international efforts to protect these ecosystems. Investment has included 15 million euro for monitoring of the Congo peatlands, $64.5 million to improve governance and support sustainable livelihoods in the peatland regions of central Africa, and $6 million in peatland management and the creation of the >800,000 ha (>35,600 km2) Yaguas National Park in Peru.