Impacts of Mauritia flexuosa degradation on the carbon stocks of freshwater peatlands in the Pastaza-Marañón river basin of the Peruvian Amazon
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Tropical peat swamp forests (PSF) are characterized by high quantities of carbon (C) stored as organic soil deposits due to waterlogged conditions which slows down decomposition. Globally, Peru has one of the largest expanse of tropical peatlands, located primarily within the Pastaza-Marañón river basin in the Northwestern Peru. Peatland forests in Peru are dominated by a palm species—Mauritia flexuosa, and M. flexuosa-dominated forests cover ~ 80% of total peatland area and store ~ 2.3 Pg C. However, hydrologic alterations, land cover change, and anthropogenic disturbances could lead to PSF’s degradation and loss of valuable ecosystem services. Therefore, evaluation of degradation impacts on PSF’s structure, biomass, and overall C stocks could provide an estimate of potential C losses into the atmosphere as greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions. This study was carried out in three regions within Pastaza-Marañón river basin to quantify PSF’s floristic composition and degradation status and total ecosystem C stocks. There was a tremendous range in C stocks (Mg C ha−1) in various ecosystem pools—vegetation (45.6–122.5), down woody debris (2.1–23.1), litter (2.3–7.8), and soil (top 1 m; 109–594). Mean ecosystem C stocks accounting for the top 1 m soil were 400, 570, and 330 Mg C ha−1 in Itaya, Tigre, and Samiria river basins, respectively. Considering the entire soil depth, mean ecosystem C stocks were 670, 1160, and 330 Mg C ha−1 in Itaya, Tigre, and Samiria river basins, respectively. Floristic composition and calcium to Magnesium (Ca/Mg) ratio of soil profile offered evidence of a site undergoing vegetational succession and transitioning from minerotrophic to ombrotrophic system. Degradation ranged from low to high levels of disturbance with no significant difference between regions. Increased degradation tended to decrease vegetation and forest floor C stocks and was significantly correlated to reduced M. flexuosa biomass C stocks. Long-term studies are needed to understand the linkages between M. flexuosa harvest and palm swamp forest C stocks; however, river dynamics are important natural drivers influencing forest succession and transition in this landscape.
KeywordsAmazon basin Forest degradation River dynamics Peat swamp forest Soil carbon
The research was a collaborative effort with partners from Instituto de investigaciones de la Amazonía Peruana (IIAP), US Department of Agriculture and CIFOR. Authors would like to thank Prof. Martin Herold, Dennis Del Castillo, Monica Aleman and Gloria Arellano and a group of enthusiastic people who enabled data collection in the field. We acknowledge the effort of field crew members—Nicole M Riviera, Julio Irarica, Diego Martin, Jack Pacaya, Victor Ruiz, Cecilia B Falcón, Ricardo Z Young, Elvis J Paredes, Rique B Estrada, Jose Manuel R Huaymacari, Maria E R Pena, Jhon del A Pasquel, Carlos G Hidalzo Pizano, and Luisa N Huaratapairo. The Analytical Lab, University of Hawaii, Honolulu, US is also acknowledged for performing soil elemental analysis. We also thank the SERNANP for providing research permit (No 009-2015-SERNAP-RNPS-JEF) that enabled sampling in the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Finally, we thank two anonymous reviewers and associate editor for their insightful comments that greatly improved this manuscript.
This study was made possible by a grant from the US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service (FS), Washington Office, and FS International Programs, implemented by Department of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University, The Netherlands.
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