peatlands Andes

Spatial and temporal patterns of methane emissions from mountain peatlands in the northern Andes across a disturbance gradient



  • Peatlands play a significant role in the global carbon and methane cycles
  • This study found that methane emissions are high in peatlands experiencing disturbances and specific microtopographical conditions
  • Methane emissions in the studied Andean peatlands were higher than in other regions of the Andes, and they were associated with certain vegetation types and human disturbances


Why managing and restoring Andean peatlands is vital for climate change mitigation


Chingaza National Park of Colombia, one of the two sites of study. Photo: Jesus Jimenez, Flickr.


Peatlands, often overlooked ecosystems, play a crucial role in the global carbon and methane cycles. A recent study focused on peatlands in the Andes, specifically investigating methane emissions. Previous research suggested that methane emissions were low in mountain peatlands due to cushion plants in central and southern regions. However, the new study revealed that disturbances and specific microtopographical conditions influence methane emissions. Methane fluxes were found to be positively correlated with the water table, particularly when it was high or above the surface, and were directly linked to soil temperature.

Surprisingly, the Andean peatlands exhibited higher methane emissions compared to other regions in the Andes, and these emissions were associated with certain vegetation types and human disturbances. Contrary to earlier assumptions, cushion plants showed only a minor contribution to methane emissions, with higher emissions observed from the hollows between cushions, even in undisturbed areas. Additionally, sites dominated by sedges and the moss Sphagnum had higher emissions when the water level was high or when the plants were submerged.

The study emphasizes the significance of managing and restoring Andean peatlands, as disturbed peatlands were found to be significant sources of methane. Intriguingly, restoration efforts involving peat rewetting initially led to higher methane emissions. Nevertheless, in the long term, restoration activities can contribute to reducing methane emissions. Despite these important findings, there is still a lack of clear understanding regarding belowground processes related to methane production and transport in these ecosystems, which hampers the development of effective management strategies. Therefore, further research is needed to improve our knowledge and ensure the preservation of these vital peatland ecosystems and their contribution to the global climate.


Learn how our Restoration Steward David Cardenas is Restoring tropical mountain peatlands in the Colombian Andes

Author: J. C. Benavides, Santiago Rocha,E. A. Blanco

Publisher: Frontiers in Earth Science

Language: English

Year: 2023

Ecosystem(s): Wetlands and Peatlands

Location(s): Colombia, Latin America

Related Publications