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Risks to carbon storage from land-use change revealed by peat thickness maps of Peru


Tropical peatlands are among the most carbon-dense ecosystems but land-use change has led to the loss of large peatland areas, associated with substantial greenhouse gas emissions. To design effective conservation and restoration policies, maps of the location and carbon storage of tropical peatlands are vital. This is especially so in countries such as Peru where the distribution of its large, hydrologically intact peatlands is poorly known. Here field and remote sensing data support the model development of peatland extent and thickness for lowland Peruvian Amazonia. We estimate a peatland area of 62,714 km2 (5th and 95th confidence interval percentiles of 58,325 and 67,102 km2, respectively) and carbon stock of 5.4 (2.6–10.6) PgC, a value approaching the entire above-ground carbon stock of Peru but contained within just 5% of its land area. Combining the map of peatland extent with national land-cover data we reveal small but growing areas of deforestation and associated CO2 emissions from peat decomposition due to conversion to mining, urban areas and agriculture. The emissions from peatland areas classified as forest in 2000 represent 1–4% of Peruvian CO2 forest emissions between 2000 and 2016. We suggest that bespoke monitoring, protection and sustainable management of tropical peatlands are required to avoid further degradation and CO2 emissions.

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Fig. 1: Distribution of the 1,128 ground reference points (GRPs) sampled for peat thickness and vegetation type data used in this study.
Fig. 2: Distribution of peat thickness.
Fig. 3: Distribution of peatlands classified as natural vegetation, secondary vegetation and deforestation based on the 2016 forest land and land-use categories within Geobosques42 in LPA.

Data availability

An interactive map of modelled peatland extent (50 m resolution) can be viewed at and the source map downloaded at An interactive map of the modelled land-cover class (50 m resolution) can be viewed at and the source map downloaded from An interactive map of the modelled peat thickness distribution (100 m resolution) can be viewed at and the source maps downloaded from An interactive map of the modelled PC (100 m resolution) can be viewed at and the source maps downloaded from The MINAM Geobosques42 raster file can be downloaded from

Code availability

The Google Earth Engine links include code for some basic analysis of the maps. Code for other parts of the analysis will be made available upon reasonable request to the corresponding author.


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This work was funded by NERC (grant ref. NE/R000751/1) to I.T.L., A.H., K.H.R., E.T.A.M., C.M.A., T.R.B., G.D. and E.C.D.G.; Leverhulme Trust (grant ref. RPG-2018-306) to K.H.R., L.E.S.C. and C.E.W.; Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation (grant no. 5439, MonANPeru network) to T.R.B., E.N.H.C. and G.F.; Wildlife Conservation Society to E.N.H.C.; Concytec/British Council/Embajada Británica Lima/Newton Fund (grant ref. 220–2018) to E.N.H.C. and J.D.; Concytec/NERC/Embajada Británica Lima/Newton Fund (grant ref. 001–2019) to E.N.H.C. and N.D.; the governments of the United States (grant no. MTO-069018) and Norway (grant agreement no. QZA-12/0882) to K.H.; and NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship (grant ref no. NE/V018760/1) to E.N.H.C. We thank SERNANP, SERFOR and GERFOR for providing research permits, and the different Indigenous and local communities, research stations and tourist companies for giving consent and allowing access to the forests. We acknowledge the invaluable support of technicians J. Irarica, J. Sanchez, H, Vásquez and R. Flores, without whom much of the fieldwork would not have been possible.

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A.H., I.T.L., E.N.H.C., E.T.A.M., K.H.R., T.R.B., L.E.S.C. and C.E.W. all contributed to the conception, development and design of the study. A.H. and E.N.H.C. performed the analysis with input from E.T.A.M., K.H., I.T.L., L.E.S.C. and P.R.-V. A.H. and E.N.H.C. wrote the manuscript with input from all the co-authors. New field data were collected by J.R., A.H., C.M.A., I.T.L., L.E.S.C., C.E.W., N.D., C.J.C.O., G.D., J.D.A., G.F., D.R. and J.G. J.E.H., O.L., F.D., J.P.J. and M.T. provided data.

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Correspondence to Adam Hastie.

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Nature Geoscience thanks Gusti Anshari and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work. Primary Handling Editors: Kyle Frischkorn and Rebecca Neely, in collaboration with the Nature Geoscience team.

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Supplementary Figs. 1–12, Methods, Discussion and Tables 1–11.

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Excel file containing extended data that support Table 1.

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Hastie, A., Honorio Coronado, E.N., Reyna, J. et al. Risks to carbon storage from land-use change revealed by peat thickness maps of Peru. Nat. Geosci. 15, 369–374 (2022).

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