Peatlands are among Earth’s greatest terrestrial carbon stores, containing the same amount as the atmosphere and all terrestrial vegetation. Their degradation represents an irrecoverable loss of carbon to the atmosphere and is an important component of anthropogenic climate change. Conservation of peatlands, a global priority for climate change mitigation, is impossible in many tropical regions because of a lack of ground-based data demonstrating the extent of peatland areas and the amount of carbon they contain.
Models predict that South America is the most important peat-forming continent at tropical latitudes with Colombia standing out as a major contributor despite an absence of field studies in its most important regions. This project will collect field measurements from peat-forming wetlands in Colombia’s vast, poorly-studied lowland regions in the Amazon and Orinoco River Basins, refining national, regional and global estimates of peat carbon stocks. The findings will provide the data necessary for Colombia to create a peatland conservation plan, facilitating the protection of these sensitive and globally important ecosystems.