International recognition for northern Andes wetlands



Posted on 01 July 2008  | 
Two unusual high-altitude wetlands in South America were declared sites of international importance on 25 June 2008 after a five-year campaign for northern Andean wetlands by WWF, other NGOs, governments and local communities.

Laguna del Otún in Colombia is a lake, swamp and peat bog area surrounded by glaciers, forest and high altitude grassland ranging up to 4,850 metres. Its 6,579 hectares contain 148 plant species, many of them unique, and it provides water for more than half a million people.

Llanganati in Ecuador, a 30,000-hectare complex of glacial lakes, swamps and seasonal peat bogs, is fed by rivers and floods and home to Andean condors, bears and mountain tapirs as well as significant frog, deer and puma populations.

“The Llanganati has a very different composition from the rest of the Andes, with its drastic climate and its isolation resulting in singular vegetation formations,” said Luis Germán Naranjo, director of Ecoregional Conservation for WWF Colombia. “It is also an important source of water for nearby populations and provides electrical energy for the centre of the country.”
 
The wetlands of the High Andes are ecosystems of enormous strategic importance for millions of people from the Pacific coasts of Columbia, Ecuador and Peru to those in the gigantic Amazon basin. The international Convention on Wetlands, signed on 2 February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar, considers them to be highly fragile ecosystems as a result of both natural causes and human intervention.
 
The designation of Llanganati and Laguna del Otún, as well as of the Sistema Lacustre de Chingaza area in Colombia, are direct contributions to the Regional Initiative on High Andean Wetlands. The initiative, developed under Ramsar auspices over the last five years, brings together the governments of the seven Andes countries plus Costa Rica and several NGOs including WWF Colombia and the WWF International Freshwater Programme.

“The primary service of the high Andean ecosystems is the production, storage and mobilization of water to the lowlands,” said Ximena Barrera, director of Public Policy and Corporate Responsibility for WWF Colombia. “The multiple peat bogs are also an important contribution to carbon capture and, therefore, regulation of the global climate.”
© Ramsar Convention Enlarge
Laguna del Otún in Colombia
Laguna del Otún in Colombia contains 148 plant species, many of them unique, and it provides water for more than half a million people
© Jorge LOTERO / PNN Enlarge

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