SMOKE ON WATER
Focus on Peru – The importance of peatlands for people in the Amazon
However, Peruvian peatlands have been degraded through intensification of traditional management systems. In recent years, several national and international efforts to assess peatlands have increased the knowledge about their extent, thickness and importance for the livelihoods of Peruvians. This, it is hoped, will improve the sustainability of land use planning and permitting, as well as peatland management as a whole. Fruit of the peatlands The Research Institute of Peruvian Amazonia (IIAP) estimates that approximately five thousand families depend on the fruit of the aguaje and other fruit trees such as the ungurahui, huasaí and muru muru which grow in the peatlands of the Peruvian Amazon. Aguaje, which has high levels of vitamin A and E, is eaten raw or extracted (in the form of oil and pulps) and turned into products by the cosmetic, juice and nectar industries. The peatlands in this area include aquatic ecosystems that contain a large diversity of fish that, in addition to ensuring local food security, provide the main income to indigenous communities.
Asubstantial part of theworld’s peatlands is located inPeru (CIFOR, 2014), mainly in the Amazon basin as well as in the Andes. Peruvian peatlands have an “extremely important ecological, economic and social role” and are found in large wetland ecosystems which can also include swamps, lakes, rivers and floodplains (CIFOR, 2014). The Peruvian Andes are dotted with scattered peatlands called “bofedales” that form 3,000 metres above sea level (Maldonado Fonkén, 2010). Several types have been identified in at least six regions of Peru (CIFOR, 2014). They are relatively small in size with an estimated overall area of 5,500 km 2 or approximately 0.4 percent of Peru’s surface area (MINAM, 2012). Peat thickness measurements indicate that bofedales can be seven metres thick with a high organic carbon content (Maldonado Fonkén, 2014). Despite heavy use, the vegetation of bofedales has adapted. Pristine peatland areas remain, and their biodiversity value is high and home to threatened species like the Junin Grebe ( Podiceps taczanowskii ). They also provide a habitat within which wild animals find water, shelter, food and nesting sites (Maldonado Fonkén, 2010).
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