The high Andean peatlands, locally known as "bofedales", are a unique type of wetland distributed across the high-elevation South American Altiplano plateau. This extensive peatland network stores significant amounts of carbon, regulates local and regional hydrological cycles, supports habitats for a variety of plant and animal species, and has provided critical water and forage resources for the livestock of the indigenous Aymara communities for thousands of years. Nevertheless, little is known about the productivity dynamics of the high Andean peatlands, particularly in the drier western Altiplano region bordering the Atacama desert. Here, we provide the first digital peatland inventory and multiscale productivity assessment for the entire western Altiplano (63,705 km2) using 31 years of Landsat data (about 9000 scenes) and a non-parametric approach for estimating phenological metrics. We identified 5665 peatland units, covering an area of 510 km2, and evaluated the spatiotemporal productivity patterns at the regional, peatland polygon, and individual pixel scales. The regional assessment shows that the peatland areas and peatlands with higher productivity are concentrated towards the northern part of our study region, which is consistent with the Altiplano north-south aridity gradient. Regional patterns further reveal that the last seven years (2011-2017) have been the most productive period over the past three decades. While individual pixels show contrasting patterns of reductions and gains in local productivity during the most recent time period, most of the study area has experienced increases in annual productivity, supporting the regional results. Our novel database can be used not only to explore future research questions related to the social, biological, and hydrological influences on peatland productivity patterns, but also to provide technical support for the sustainable development of livestock practices and conservation and water management policy in the Altiplano region.
- Time series