EGU23-14538, updated on 01 Dec 2023
EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Sociocultural and ecological perspectives on the peatlands of Peruvian Amazonia

Katherine H. Roucoux1, Nina D. Laurie1, Althea L. Davies1, Edward T.A. Mitchard2, Euridice N. Honorio Coronado1, Manuel Martín Brañas3, Nallarett Davila3, Christopher Schulz1, Luis Andueza4, Lydia E.S. Cole1, Charlotte E. Wheeler5, Ian T. Lawson1, Jhon del Aguila Pasquel3, and Dennis del Castillo Torres4
Katherine H. Roucoux et al.
  • 1University of St Andrews, School of Geography and Sustainable Development, United Kingdom of Great Britain (
  • 2University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
  • 3Instituto de Investigaciones de la Amazonia Peruana, Iquitos, Peru
  • 4Kings College London, London, United Kingdom
  • 5University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom

The recently described peatlands of northern Peruvian Amazonia are relatively intact compared with peatlands elsewhere in the tropics. They make an important contribution to regional biodiversity and, by sequestering carbon, to climate change mitigation. Research to date has focused on their physical and biological aspects, but peatlands are not simply natural phenomena: they are used, valued and understood socially and culturally in profoundly different ways by different groups of people.

This research project used an interdisciplinary participatory approach, working with peatland communities and stakeholders in Peru, to bring together the different perspectives needed to produce a comprehensive understanding which the natural sciences cannot achieve alone. The three central aims of the project were to 1) characterise the ecology and sociocultural values of the ecosystem types identified by local communities; 2) identify the strategies and challenges around community management of natural resources; and 3) identify opportunities for peatland conservation and maintenance of livelihoods. We worked with five peatland forest communities, three mestizo and two indigenous, in the Pastaza-Marañón Basin, which is the largest peat-forming area in lowland Peru. To address our aims we used a range of methods, both ecological (plot-based vegetation survey, measuring peat properties) and sociological (participatory mapping, interviews, focus groups).

A key outcome of this work is a better understanding of the multifaceted importance of peatlands to local communities. The resources and spaces provided by peatland ecosystems were important culturally and socioeconomically to all five communities, but with pronounced differences relating to the communities’ different sociocultural and economic experiences and contexts. Another striking finding was that the nature of communities’ relationships with external actors, and their exposure to different opportunities and challenges, varied very markedly from one community to the next. For example, our study communities have experienced different interventions, some more successful and enduring than others, by government agencies and NGOs focusing mainly on biodiversity conservation; the success or otherwise of these past projects is likely to shape the willingness of communities to engage with future conservation efforts. Some communities have been more heavily influenced than others by the expansion of regional markets and value chains for timber and non-timber forest products into remote peatland areas over recent decades; other communities have been profoundly affected by activities of multinational extractive industries, including the oil industry and plantation agriculture.

We conclude that future peatland conservation efforts and sustainable development projects in Peruvian Amazonia will need to recognize the significant variations from one community to the next in terms of the ways in which they use and value the peatlands, and in terms of their wider socio-economic and cultural contexts. Long-term protection of the peatlands will only be possible by engaging with communities individually, taking into account the concerns, needs, desires, threats, and opportunities particular to each one.

How to cite: Roucoux, K. H., Laurie, N. D., Davies, A. L., Mitchard, E. T. A., Honorio Coronado, E. N., Martín Brañas, M., Davila, N., Schulz, C., Andueza, L., Cole, L. E. S., Wheeler, C. E., Lawson, I. T., del Aguila Pasquel, J., and del Castillo Torres, D.: Sociocultural and ecological perspectives on the peatlands of Peruvian Amazonia, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 23–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-14538,, 2023.