Monitoreo forestal nacional

Skills and knowledge for peatlands: when challenges become opportunities


Marggiori Pancorbo-Olivera, Maria Nuutinen, Zoe Klobus, FAO

Wetlands are ecosystems covered by water, and are fundamental for people’s livelihoods, biodiversity and climate regulation. These vital resources are celebrated each year on the 2nd of February, recognized as World Wetlands Day. Among them, peatlands stand out, as they are especially important for climate change. However, despite their significance, knowledge of peatlands remains limited in many countries.

Peatlands store large amounts of carbon in the peat they have been accumulating for thousands of years. A form of organic soil, peat is made from the remains of plants and animals, which decompose slowly in the presence of little oxygen. From the Arctic to the tropics, in the mountains, and along coastlines, rivers and lakes, peatlands are present in 169 countries. Although they cover only about 3 percent of the planet’s land area, peatlands store approximately two times the amount of carbon contained in all global forests. A few years ago, studies began to better map and monitor peatlands in a number of tropical countries. These precious resources continue to face a variety of threats, yet peatlands remain absent from many national and local plans and strategies.

Developing stakeholder capacity will be essential to help close many knowledge gaps, deliver appropriate scientific and development interventions, address the threats peatlands face and boost climate action. Thus, assessing the current state of capacities and needs is clearly the first step. To begin this evaluation, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) conducted a global needs assessment survey. 

The 287 actors who responded were based in 4 tropical countries where FAO and partners have project activities – Peru, Indonesia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo – and other countries that are home to peatlands. The report, “Needs and knowledge gaps on peatlands for climate action” summarizes the challenges, needs, opportunities for collaboration and solutions proposed by respondents.  

Peatlands are complex landscapes and information from several disciplines is needed to manage them. Moreover, to successfully achieve peatland restoration or other climate action in peatland landscapes, interdisciplinary, intersectoral and multilevel coordination in needed. This coordination was identified as a significant challenge by survey respondents, but also presents a key opportunity for synergies between organizations.

In addition, respondents identified the need to improve tools, knowledge and methods on financial mechanisms and ecosystem services, as priority topics. Further, a lack of resources (funds, people, knowledge) was recognized as another main challenge. Thus, spreading information on currently available financing mechanisms is necessary, and raising awareness of the ecosystem services provided by peatlands is vital. Information must be disseminated to local communities, decision makers and the general public, so that the roles of peatlands are recognized and included in development agendas.

We expect that the results presented in the report will be useful when designing capacity development activities. Targeting the needs and gaps in the contexts of each peatland landscape will help the trained stakeholders, especially educators, students, scientific and local communities to improve peatland management. 

The report presented here were conducted as part of the Global Peatlands Initiative project, led by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and implemented jointly with FAO and partners. The project is generously supported by the German Climate Initiative IKI.

Further information

Contact: [email protected] 

Publication: Peru and peatlands: Needs and knowledge gaps

Website: FAO collection of good practices on peatlands

Join FAO’s online community for peatlands and climate change