Project Peperpot, Suriname

Utrecht University Botanic Gardens’ Quantitative Biodiversity Dynamics research unit (QBD) is working in Suriname, South-America, to map and showcase the biodiversity of Peperpot Nature Park, a former plantation that is slowly regenerating back to primary tropical forest.

The Mobetino trail in Peperpot Nature Park. Photo: Gijs Steur

Peperpot Nature Park is a voluntary park consisting of five old plantations that have been slowly regenerating back towards primary forest. It is situated on the opposite bank of the Suriname river that flows along Paramaribo, the capital of Suriname. The park is managed by the Peperpot Nature Forest Foundation, which aims to protect the cultural legacy of the former plantations as well as the local regenerating natural biodiversity. To this aim, QBD is working together with the Peperpot Foundation to create a vegetation map of the area that will feature both natural vegetation types as well as old remnants of the plantation vegetation. With such a map, remnants of plantation vegetation can be preserved while also identifying and protecting the areas with high biodiversity and ecosystem service values.

Under the name 'Project Peperpot', QBD will not only create abovementioned vegetation map but also establish permanent sampling plots, manage a checklist of species found in the area and create a local Flora of the area. By establishing and inventorying permanent sampling plots, changes in local biodiversity and vegetation can be studied, contributing to answering both practical and fundamental scientific questions. In collaboration with the National Herbarium of Suriname, occurring plant species are collected, verified and permanently stored in the National Herbarium to provide a base-line of the area and for Suriname. Verified plant species will be tracked in an online and continuously updated Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Peperpot Nature Park. Last but not least, with help of the Flora of the Guianas programme, a local Flora of the area will be produced - a key to help identify all vascular plants. This Flora can be used to enhance the public experience of the park as well as facilitate the research on plant diversity. In the future, multi-taxa surveys, for example including birds and large mammals, are on the agenda as well.

Senna bacillaris var. bacillaris in the park – ‘Sjaroen’ or ‘Jorkati’. Photo: Gijs Steur

For the upcoming years, each February QBD researchers and Master students will visit the park to carry out the research. During these visits, students of both Anton de Kom University and the Flora of the Guianas programme are invited join in the research, to share their knowledge and fieldwork experience. The first MSc students visited the park and started to work on the vegetation map in 2023.

The Peperpot Nature Park alongside the Suriname river. Screen: Gijs Steur

Peperpot Nature Park is around 820 ha is size and consists of the old plantations Mobetino, Peperpot, La Liberte, Bittenburg and ‘t Eiland. The plantations Mobetino and Pepeperpot have collectively have been most recently in use, where coffee and cacao was grown until 1997. Since 1998 all plantation activities have been stopped, and in 2009 the ‘Peperpot Nature Forest Foundation’ was founded that created the Peperpot Nature Park.