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EO4cultivar Peru: Mapping Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services in the Virú Valley, Peru

Logos of EO4Cultivar and the UK Space Agency

EO4cultivar Sustainable Livelihoods Case Study: Mapping Natural Capital and Ecosystem Services in the Virú Valley, Peru

As part of the EO4cultivar project, the Peruvian case study applies an integrated ecosystem approach to sustainable land management in the Virú Valley of the La Libertad region on the Pacific coastline of northern Peru. This economically important production area supplies asparagus, avocado and other key commodities to UK supply chains.

The outputs of this work serve as a case study as to how Earth observation data and ecosystem service modelling can be incorporated into land-use decision making. The case study has been co-designed with stakeholder organisations who are undertaking environmental improvement work in the study area, however the methods applied can be adapted for use in other production systems and landscapes in other places in the world.

The outputs produced are designed to improve understanding of how adopting a natural capital approach to land management can increase ecosystem resilience. The ecosystem service maps and accompanying management guides indicate how natural functions and processes can be considered in land-use planning, therefore ensuring that these natural systems are able to continue to support human activities.

The case study focusses on the Virú Valley, an area which supports cultivation activities for a wide range of types of agricultural enterprises, ranging from: regional small and medium enterprises that supply both international and local markets; subsistence farmers; and, in the coastal part of the valley, a few large international agricultural businesses producing crops for export.  Balancing the needs of these different stakeholders with the carrying capacity of local ecosystems is an ongoing endeavour within the region.

Study area description

The study area is located in northern Peru on the Pacific coastline, the most arid region of the country, where nearly 60% of the population resides predominantly in urban centres close to river systems.

The main export crops in the region include asparagus, red pepper, avocado, artichoke, and sugar cane. The absence of low temperatures enables farming to continue throughout the year. Water is available year-round and supplied by the Chavimochic Irrigation Project. The irrigation canal runs northwards and is located 50 metres above the cultivars, eliminating the need for pumping as the water is already pressurised.

Peru is a global biodiversity hotspot and is home to more than 20,000 species of animals, more than 5,500 species of plants and holds 10% of global species. Five distinctive ecoregions converge in La Libertad: the Pacific coastal desert; the Andean steppe (Serranía esteparia); the equatorial dry forest; the yungas (selva alta) montane forest; and the puna. Each ecoregion hosts multiple habitat types, leading to high biological diversity and high levels of endemism.

Over the course of the first four years, the project worked with a range of key local stakeholders which included large commercial agricultural businesses, non-government organisations who work with small-holder growers and local communities, and local government agencies. These parties all identified similar challenges regarding: water provisioning (quantity and quality) and water transport; protection from soil erosion and maintenance of soil biomass; flood water regulation; and maintenance of biodiversity.

Focussing on these factors, the project set about demonstrating how Earth observation data, ecosystem modelling, and local knowledge can be brought together to inform holistic management of the ecosystems within this biodiversity-rich and highly productive multi-functional landscape.


Online ecosystem service mapper

The online mapper presents 13 interactive maps. The study uses the Spatial Evidence for Natural Capital Evaluation (SENCE) toolkit developed by Environment Systems for mapping and modelling ecosystem services. To inform the management challenges that were identified by stakeholders, the following ecosystem services have been modelled:

  • Surface water regulation (flood risk mitigation): identifying places where there is the opportunity to undertake land interventions to slow the flow of water runoff.
  • Soil erosion risk: mapping the risk of soil erosion by wind and precipitation.
  • Ecological connectivity: mapping the eco-connectivity of semi-natural habitats to show where restoration of habitats can enhance the resilience of biodiversity and ecosystem services.

Screenshot of the Peru mapper (English version)


Ecosystem management guides

In order to link the ecosystem service modelling to practical management interventions on the ground, JNCC produced and commissioned a set of management guides, available from our Resource Hub, which can be used in conjunction with the ecosystem service modelled outputs. The guides focus on the management of water, soil, and biodiversity.

Front cover of the Management Guide for Water Management and Ecosystem Services


Project reports and data download

There are two reports that accompany this case study. The first report outlines methods used to produce the habitat map, which is the basis for the ecosystem service modelling. The second focuses on the SENCE approach used to model ecosystem services. GIS data and images of the modelled outputs are available for download from the Resource Hub.

Photograph of the Peruvian landscape, with two people standing on a pile of soil and rocks and looking and pointing into the distance (© Matt Smith)




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