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International Peatlands Workshop: Enhancing Evidence-Based Policy by Developing Core Common Outcomes and Collaborations for Peatland Research and Monitoring

Published by: Julie Van Offelen on July 12, 2019 Author:

There has been significant investment in peatland data collection across the tropics. However, when it comes to looking at the effects of management treatments and restoration, attempts to synthesize the results of research and monitoring have often proven challenging. Inconsistent choices across projects – for example on what measurement, analysis and reporting indicators to use, or what outcomes and variables to focus on – make it difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile apparently conflicting evidence about important processes or practices. Harder still is the task of creating robust syntheses for national and international decision-makers.

There is growing recognition that more consistency is needed across key measuring and reporting outcomes, so they can be compared and synthesized between studies and provide more robust evidence for policy and practice. This will ultimately increase understanding of peatland processes and the effects of land use and restoration, as well as reduce any research waste resulting from the measuring of different outcomes or poor reporting. For these reasons, the medical community now routinely uses core sets of outcomes, but few attempts have been made to do this within the natural sciences. Rather than limit or mandate what can be measured, by reaching consensus on the core outcomes that should be measured and reported on, this workshop seeked to empower researchers and practitioners to voluntarily choose approaches that will be comparable and synthesizable (if this is one of their goals), or to knowingly measure and report differently if there is good reason to do so (e.g. if findings may be of limited use beyond the site in which they were collected).

This workshop contributes to the conservation, restoration and sustainable management of peatlands, both by coordinating the collection and reporting of core common outcome sets for peatland data, and by building interdisciplinary collaborations across tropical peatlands. This, for the first time, enables a global synthesis of data and trends, to inform future policy at both national and international levels. Through harmonizing data collection and reporting in ways that can better inform international peatland mapping, monitoring and reporting exercises and national restoration projects around the world, the workshop makes a significant contribution to the sustainability of tropical peatlands.

Workshop objectives:
After testing the approach for peatlands in the UK, the workshop focussed on tropical peatlands as part of the UN Global Peatlands Initiative, with the objective to :

  • Develop a core set of outcomes and reporting standards for tropical peatland research and monitoring, to enable more evidence-based policy and practice based on evidence synthesis (with a particular focus on Global Peatlands Initiative’s partner countries, Peru, Indonesia, Republic of the Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo)
  • Establish collaborative relationships between workshop participants, as a basis for future interdisciplinary and inter-regional tropical peatlands research.

The event was jointly organized and hosted by the Research, Development and Innovation Agency (FOERDIA), Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry and International Tropical Peatlands Center (ITPC), CIFOR, Newcastle University, UN Environment and has been conceptualized withcore partners of the FAO and the Global Peatlands Initiative (GPI).

How will workshop outputs be used?
The workshop had the aim of exploring the potential for international standards to make it possible to synthesize data internationally and inform peatland mapping exercises, such as those currently being pursued as part of the Global Peatlands Initiative for the production of a Global Peatland Assessment. Workshop outputs will be used as input into international attempts to harmonize data collection and reporting in ways that can better inform international peatland mapping, monitoring and reporting exercises and national restoration projects around the world. Workshop participants also identified three policy objectives relevant to tropical peatlands (1. climate mitigation, 2. social and economic, and sustainable management, and 3. protection and restoration). A methodological guide will also be developed to replicate core outcomes for research and monitoring in other peatlands around the world.

Based on the final half day of collaboration, a number of working groups were established to develop concept notes for research proposals, and a series of Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) have been established between key institutions to strengthen commitment and collaboration with the ITPC.

Why was this workshop held at the International Tropical Peatlands Center?
The ITPC is an important mechanism for tropical peatland practitioners and global researchers, enabling key contributors to come together to accelerate knowledge generation and interdisciplinary research collaboration. The ITPC will act as a hub to facilitate joint research, multi-disciplinary knowledge exchange and dialogue between researchers, practitioners and private sector stakeholders, who together hold both the technology and know-how needed to enable data and method harmonization. By focusing on tropical peatland research, the ITPC can facilitate impactful interdisciplinary research and collaboration for all those working on relevant aspects of tropical peatland research, including hydrology, biology, pedology and monitoring. Efforts to facilitate collaborative research, joint outreach and technology transfer – both between individuals and institutions – will help to maximize skills exchange and capacity building, while also helping the private sector to improve science-approved technologies for transfer between countries.

For more information, please contact:

Mercy Ojo, Newcastle University:
Dr. Haruni Krisnawati, ITPC Lead Coordinator:
Budhy Kristanty, Communications Officer:
Dianna Kopansky, Global Peatlands Initiative Coordinator: 

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