Monitoring soil greenhouse gas fluxes in a palm swamp peatland.
Monitoring soil greenhouse gas fluxes in a palm swamp peatland.

Transforming Evidence into Action to Conserve Peatlands

The SWAMP Project Shares Lessons Learned in Collaborating with Policy Makers
By Isabela Barriga

Peru stands as the country with the fourth-highest volume of tropical peat, most of which is relatively less degraded than in other regions of the world. However, this could change. Increasing development pressure and lack of peatland-specific protection policies puts Peru's peatlands— and its carbon reserves—at risk. 

For the Sustainable Wetlands Adaptation and Mitigation Program (SWAMP) scientists and members of Peru’s Ministry of Environment working on this challenge, collaboration and effective communication of the benefits of peatlands have been critical to the refinement of national policy in Peru. 

Peatlands support climate change mitigation and adaptation worldwide by storing large amounts of carbon and regulating water cycles. However, peatlands are not always included in national climate change strategies. This can be due to a lack of national peatland data including maps and greenhouse gas (GHG) emission factors, lack of political coordination among sectors for defining and enforcing regulations, and inadequate financing for their preservation, sustainable management, and restoration. In Peru, the unique carbon sequestration potential and vulnerabilities of peatlands were previously overlooked in national policies, including in the national wetlands strategy.


Flooded palm swamp peatland in Peru.
Flooded palm swamp peatland in Peru.

The SWAMP Program is a collaborative effort by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) with support from USAID. Through robust scientific approaches and methods, the SWAMP Program’s goal is to generate knowledge on sustainable wetland management that is relevant to policymakers and practitioners.

Peatlands in Peru are under pressure from large-scale infrastructure development and urbanization, as well as illegal mining and agribusiness. Preventing the loss of peatlands involves working with governments and getting incentives right. “To maintain the integrity of Peruvian peatlands, it will be necessary for government policies to recognize their unique roles,” said Dr. Kristell Hergoualc’h, Scientist at CIFOR.

National research centers are playing an important role in furthering the understanding of peatlands, raising awareness of their importance among policymakers, and fostering community engagement. Building on SWAMP’s work in lowland and mountain peatlands, Dr. Hergoualc’h led an effort to raise the profile of peatlands in the national policy dialogue by organizing a major national event last spring in Lima, The National Symposium on Sustainable Management of Peruvian Peatlands: Scientific Context and Institutional Framework, which was attended by scientists, managers, and policymakers. This event demonstrated the need for a common frame of reference around Peruvian peatlands and dialogue between different actors.  


Installation of experiment for measuring soil greenhouse gas fluxes in a palm peat swamp forest.
Installation of experiment for measuring soil greenhouse gas fluxes in a palm peat swamp forest.

“This workshop in turn initiated a process of developing a national definition of peatlands, which is a first step to incorporating them into national policies” said Dr. Hergoualc’h. The SWAMP project contributed to the process of developing a peatland definition by providing international and transnational perspectives. The project also advised the National Forest Inventory and the Wetlands Inventory on protocols for mapping and inventorying peatlands. These are foundational steps towards sustainable management of peatlands in Peru.

Another major outcome of the project is collaboration with the government of Peru in moving towards regulation of peatlands. This process involved cross-sectoral consultation by working hand-in-hand with the Ministry of Environment. Since last year, the SWAMP project not only provided expertise to support the development of a national definition for peatlands but also provided criteria for classifying peatlands and mapping them. This SWAMP-Ministry of Environment collaboration is the result of over six years of research and outreach activities in the country.

“Given the shared competencies between different sectors in relation to peatlands, intersectoral coordination is key to achieving efficient and effective management of the same,” said José Álvarez Alonso, General Directorate of Biological Diversity at Peru’s Ministry of the Environment. He noted that engaging with the SWAMP team has been collaborative from the facilitation and participation in events, to the exchange of information on peatlands. Their work with the SWAMP project has also led to the development of a Guide to Peatlands to promote the care of Peruvian peatlands.


Measuring carbon and other green house gases in palm swamp forests on peatlands.
Measuring carbon and other green house gases in palm swamp forests on peatlands.

“The attention to peatlands poses important challenges, from establishing collaborative alliances between different sectors and actors, to the development of management instruments“ said Mr. Álvarez Alonso, “such as the national map of peatlands, and the quantification of carbon stored in peatlands.” These instruments will support Peru in establishing institutional frameworks on wetlands in general and peatlands specifically, to advance the effective management of Peruvian peatlands.

Information is key in management and conservation decision-making, and SWAMP is spearheading this effort. “There is no doubt that informed decision-making will allow significant progress to be made in the conservation and eventually recovery of peatlands,” said Mr. Álvarez Alonso, “and we have high expectations that SWAMP will continue to support this.” The management of ecosystems such as peatlands depends on solid evidence that SWAMP and other scientists produce and communicate to policymakers.

For more information, you can read the supporting research article Is Indonesian peatland loss a cautionary tale for Peru? A two-country comparison of the magnitude and causes of tropical peatland degradation

Read the blog in Spanish.

Strategic Objective
Adaptation, Ecosystem-based Adaptation, Carbon, Emissions, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation & Forest Degradation (REDD+), Climate Change, Climate Policy, Sustainable Land Management, Land Use, Sustainable Landscapes
Latin America & Caribbean

Isabela Barriga

Isabela Barriga serves as the social media manager, content entry and work flow coordinator for Climatelinks. She assists with knowledge management, research, and writing blogs. Previously, Isabela provided communication and content management support to organizations such as the United Nations Volunteers programme in Ecuador and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance in Washington, DC. Isabela holds a Bachelor of Science in Public Health from the University of Maryland, College Park and a minor in International Development & Conflict Management.

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