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Carbon storage and floristic dynamics in Peruvian peatland ecosystems

Draper, Frederick Charles Henry (2015) Carbon storage and floristic dynamics in Peruvian peatland ecosystems. PhD thesis, University of Leeds.

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Abstract

In this thesis I took a novel interdisciplinary approach involving remote sensing, ecological and palaeoecological techniques to address some of the most fundamental gaps in our understanding of Peruvian peatlands. The existence of these peatlands was only recently confirmed and although they were known to store large quantities of carbon, initial assessments of carbon stocks were highly uncertain. In addition, little was known of their biodiversity or how they have developed. Firstly, I used data fusion remote sensing and extensive field data to generate a high resolution, landscape scale map of peatland ecosystems in the largest peatland complex in Amazonia. This approach confirmed that peatland ecosystems in northern Peru are the most carbon dense ecosystems in Amazonia storing up to 1391 ± 710 Mg C ha-1, and have a total carbon stock of 3.14 (0.44–8.15) Pg C, which equates to nearly 50 % of the total above-ground carbon stocks of the whole country. Secondly, I established a new network of floristic inventory plots and described the composition and diversity of peatland tree communities. I demonstrated that peatland pole forest has the lowest alpha diversity of all tree communities in lowland Amazonia. In contrast, by comparing these data with three larger plot networks from other ecosystems in the region, I also showed that they have surprisingly high beta diversity, and harbour important populations of species that were previously thought to be restricted to other habitat types such as white sand forest. Finally, pollen analysis was undertaken across eight peat cores from two sites to test the significance of historical processes in determining current patterns of composition and diversity. Both autogenic (internal biotic) and allogenic (external environmental) processes operating through time were important determinants of current floristic patterns. Demonstrating that such historical processes have an important role in determining the composition of tropical ecosystems is valuable as they are often overlooked – or in many cases impossible to study in such detail. Overall this thesis shows that peatland ecosystems in the Peruvian Amazon have high conservation value both as a carbon store and for regional ecosystem diversity. In addition, peatland ecosystems provide an exciting opportunity to investigate the importance of fundamental historical and ecological processes for determining the composition and diversity of tropical forests.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Leeds > Faculty of Environment (Leeds) > School of Geography (Leeds)
Depositing User: Mr Frederick Draper
Date Deposited: 05 May 2016 09:09
Last Modified: 05 May 2016 09:09
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/12679

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