High Andean Wetlands Regional Strategy

Posted on 13 March 2006
High Andean Wetlands Regional Strategy
High Andean Wetlands Regional Strategy
© WWF Colombia
The lakes, lagoons, marshes and peat bogs of the High Andes and the mountains of Costa Rica are ecosystems of enormous strategic importance for more than 100 million people.

Their ecological, economic, social and cultural value must be taken into account in the design and implementation of development policies in countries where these ecosystems are found.

The majority of paramo wetlands, jalca and puna are not isolated bodies of water, but rather, ecosystem complexes. Therefore, they play an essential role in the dynamics of highland tributary basins, as well as of other hydrographic systems, given that their waters flow towards the Amazonian watersheds or towards the Pacific or Caribbean coasts.

As well as being important sources of water, high Andean wetlands have a singular biological diversity. Many species of plants and animals inhabiting these ecosystems are not found in any other parts of the world.

Furthermore, several species of migratory birds congregate in these areas on a temporary basis. Some of these wetlands provide shelter and reproduction sites for a large number of threatened animals, such as Andean flamingos and harlequin frogs of the genus Atelopus.

Additionally, they are a fundamental component of the habitat of some economic and ecologically important mammals, such as the vicuña, guanaco and chinchilla.

The Ramsar Convention considers high Andean wetlands to be highly fragile ecosystems as a result of both natural causes (such as climate change or prolonged drought on the puna) as well as human intervention (for example, non-sustainable agriculture, excessive grazing and open cast mining).

Many mountain wetlands are being lost at an accelerated rate, above all, due to poor management and a lack of knowledge of their economic and ecological importance.