Until about a decade ago, lowland tropical peatlands were thought to be overwhelmingly concentrated in SE Asia. Accordingly, a sizeable body of knowledge was developed on peatlands in Malaysia and Indonesia. Ironically, just as their huge carbon storage and unique ecology were being explored, they were increasingly deforested, drained, and given over to agriculture; only fragments of the original vegetation now remain. However, extensive campaigns of remote sensing and fieldwork have shown in the past few years that lowland peatlands in fact occur very widely across the tropics, and in many cases they are comparatively pristine. Far from being anomalous, SE Asian peatlands now appear to be part of a wider pattern. This session aims to stimulate a new synthesis of our knowledge of the similarities and differences in peatland form and function across the tropics. Presentations focusing on aspects of distribution, hydrology, microbiology, geochemistry, (palaeo-)ecology, and conservation of tropical peatlands are welcome; we particularly encourage attempts to synthesize what is known, identify outstanding questions, and make comparisons between peatlands in different parts of the tropics and/or at higher latitudes.