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Work at the University of Leeds led to the discovery and mapping of previously unknown intact peatlands in both Amazonia and Africa. These findings catalysed the creation of the >35,600 km2 Yaguas National Park in northern Peru, underpinned the Brazzaville Declaration signed by the Republic of Congo and Democratic Republic of Congo governments to protect the 145,500 km2 of peatlands in the Congo basin, and led to US$72,800,000 investment in sustainable management across the three countries.



Reducing the rate of climate change requires the maintenance of terrestrial ecosystem carbon stocks. Tropical peatlands are a priority for protection as they contain some of the highest densities of carbon of any ecosystem. Understanding where tropical peatlands are found, and measuring how much carbon they contain, is therefore essential for designing effective policy to mitigate climate change.



Since 2011 the Leeds team undertook research  to map and quantify the carbon stocks of tropical peatlands in Amazonia and Africa.

Pioneering work to map the extent and distribution of below ground peat was undertaken across the wetlands of the Pastaza Marañon basin, northern Peru. In 2014, new and existing field data in combination with novel optical and radar-based remote sensing products were used to map and quantify carbon stored in this region.

In 2017, a similar combination of new field data and novel remote sensing techniques were used to produce a map of the central Congo peatlands for the first time.

The work has also identified both the threats to these largely intact peatland ecosystems, and pathways to ensure they are conserved and managed sustainably.



The research impacted conservation investment and policy development following dissemination of findings with national and international stakeholders and policymakers.

The team presented the map of Peruvian Amazon peatland carbon stocks at the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2013, and the map of the Congo peatlands at the UNFCCC in 2017 and at COP25 in 2019.

Their estimates of peatland carbon stocks in the Peruvian Amazon were used to underpin the successful US$6,000,000 proposal by the Peruvian Trust Fund for National Parks and Protected Areas (PROFONANPE) to the UN-backed global Green Climate Fund (GCF).

The peatland research in Peru catalysed the creation of the >800,000 ha (>35,600 km2) Yaguas National Park by the Peruvian Protected Areas Authority.

The discovery of the world’s largest tropical peatland complex in the central Congo basin, its globally significant carbon stock, and the team’s UN briefings led to the Brazzaville Declaration, which increases cooperation and collaboration to protect the peatlands from future drainage.

The carbon stock estimates and mapping of the Congo peatlands led to investments by two international funding bodies to protect the peatlands and improve local livelihoods.


More information 

Institution: University of Leeds

Researchers: Professor Tim Baker, Professor Simon Lewis, Dr Katy Roucoux, Dr Ian Lawson, Dr Freddie Draper, Dr Greta Dargie


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Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) (2023) Formal protection for South American and African peatlands secures carbon stocks and supports livelihoods. Available at  Last accessed on: <date>