The distribution and amount of carbon in the largest peatland complex in Amazonia

Frederick C Draper, Katherine H Roucoux, Ian T Lawson, Edward T A Mitchard, Euridice N Honorio Coronado, Outi Lähteenoja, Luis Torres Montenegro, Elvis Valderrama Sandoval, Ricardo Zaráte, Timothy R Baker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Peatlands in Amazonian Peru are known to store large quantities of carbon, but there is high uncertainty in the spatial extent and total carbon stocks of these ecosystems. Here, we use a multi-sensor (Landsat, ALOS PALSAR and SRTM) remote sensing approach, together with field data including 24 forest census plots and 218 peat thickness measurements, to map the distribution of peatland vegetation types and calculate the combined above- and below-ground carbon stock of peatland ecosystems in the Pastaza-Marañon foreland basin in Peru. We find that peatlands cover 35 600 ± 2133 km2 and contain 3.14 (0.44–8.15) Pg C. Variation in peat thickness and bulk density are the most important sources of uncertainty in these values. One particular ecosystem type, peatland pole forest, is found to be the most carbon-dense ecosystem yet identified in Amazonia (1391 ± 710 Mg C ha−1). The novel approach of combining optical and radar remote sensing with above- and below-ground carbon inventories is recommended for developing regional carbon estimates for tropical peatlands globally. Finally, we suggest that Amazonian peatlands should be a priority for research and conservation before the developing regional infrastructure causes an acceleration in the exploitation and degradation of these ecosystems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number124017
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2014

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