Within the mosaic of the mountains of the highlands, deep valleys and cut slopes sharply in climbing, unique ecosystems have flourished side by side over the centuries, its balance has been protected by the rugged terrain and 12,000 years of relatively stable weather.
It is home to nearly a sixth of the world’s plant species and hundreds of species of mammals, birds and amphibians, the Andean cloud forests are one of the most biologically diverse regions in the world.
They are also among the most vulnerable. The isolation has led to a high number of endemic species – or regional only – species with little history of migration, leaving them poorly equipped to respond to human influences that have crept through the forest in recent decades.
The extraction of minerals and the agricultural deforestation have had a cost, and the incursions in the region show all the signs of expansion.
The most alarming represents the rising temperatures that have accelerated the migration process than usual.
This process began at the end of the last ice age and threatens to push the biodiversity of the region to greater competition for survival.
Soil conditions temperature variations, and are accelerating the same according to forest ecologists have conducted research in the region.
Although many South American countries have taken steps to protect the Andean ecosystems, their efforts may be insufficient.
A new study led by researchers at Duke University has identified and mapped hundreds of plants and animal species through 17,000 kilometers in the Andes, a section that goes through Bolivia and Peru. They found that only 20 percent of the areas with the highest levels of biodiversity are protected by government regulations.
“What our study showed that it was incredibly scary,” said Bruce Young, Director of Science of the species in the NatureServe organization and co-author of the study.
Is that Bolivia and Peru have taken significant steps to protect forests, but the study “just goes to show that despite how much we have done, there is still much to do.”
Researchers are concerned that without strong protection that accurately reflect the location of endemic species, commercial enterprises in the area, including oil and gold mining and resource extraction can alter or even eliminate many irreplaceable species .
Given that half of all U.S. prescription drugs include ingredients derived from plants of tropical forests, the researchers warn that the destruction of these biomes represents a major loss potential for modern medicine.
The endemic animal species such as the solitary titi monkey or the amber eyed long mustaches owl is not distributed evenly across the face of the Andes.
The models created by the project Duke represent what ecologists have long known: that the mountain species tend to disperse along a horizontal axis instead of vertical axis .
Given that the climate varies with altitude, the mountain slopes can accommodate an increase in climatic zones. In each of these areas, different flower species.
Not all regions are equally favorable weather to endemic species, however, the models created by the Duke study shows that at some point, the species groups intensify, forming an almost solid band across the mountain. This is because certain species have adapted to climatic conditions better than others, said Young.
If species can not keep pace with increasing temperature, the researchers expressed concern because they may get trapped in heat levels for which they have little tolerance and this can lead to possible extinction.
Gustavo Carrasquel | ANCA24