Eastern South America: Southern Ecuador and northern Peru

The Cordillera Central dry páramo occurs from southern Ecuador into northern Peru on a number of ridges and mountaintops. Like other páramo ecosystems, it occurs roughly from treeline, at approximately 3200m, to permanent snow line at approximately 4500m. A typical landscape is treeless vegetation dominated by bunchgrass and cushion plants which occur with desert like shrub, sedges, and many, with an underlying mat of lichens and moss. This shrubby alpine grassland is bordered at lower elevations by montane cloud forest and elfin transitional forest.

  • Scientific Code
  • Ecoregion Category
  • Size
    4,700 square miles
  • Status
    Relatively Stable/Intact
  • Habitats

Location and General Description
The wet scrublands that make up this region are unique for Peru and correspond to the southern limit of the distribution of this region in the Neotropics. The landscape is wet montane, with dwarf trees of the genus Ferreyrathus (Rodríguez, L.1996). The vegetation is characterized by grasses of the genera Calamagrostis, Agrostis, Hypericum, and genera of tree species such as Polylepis and Escalonia( Ferreyra 1988).

The combination of high elevations and altitudinal ranges has given rise to a unique type of plateau. This ecoregion occupies an area of 14,128 Km2 (Roca1996) extending from Ecuador to northern Peru in the high basins of Piura and Cajamarca above 3000 m. ASL (Pulgar Vidal 1967). The climate is cold and wet, with high precipitation and is very cloudy. Low temperatures at night are generally below 0ºC (Brack, A.1988). The soils in this region are wet and marshy, with rocky regions and spaced outcropping of rocks. It has volcanic geological formations (tobaceous breccias and Tertiary effluvia). There are also Andean batholiths from the Paleocene and areas with metamorphic and sedimentary rock from the Precambrian and lower Paleozoic. (Rodríguez 1996).

The plateau is the birthplace of numerous streams running down both the Pacific and Atlantic slopes (eastern and western flank of the Andes). These plateau formations are clearly important in the regional hydrological cycle as numerous basins have their origins in the formations of montane pastures. These headwaters form the rivers on which the human populations depend to meet their consumption and agricultural needs (WWF 1999). The region is located in Peru in the basins of the Quirós, Huancabamba and Chimchipe rivers. The topography is steep on the high peaks, with flat and undulating portions on the tablelands interrupted by deep valleys with a more temperate climate.(Brack 1988).

Biodiversity Features
This is an ecoregion formed by mountain pastures of a unique type. Their isolation has allowed for a singular diversity of species and great endemism. Currently, we know that there are between 1000 and 1500 species belonging to 300 genera of phanerogamous plants alone; of these approximately 60% are endemic.(CDC-UNALM,1991). In addition, it is a recognized center of avian endemisms and three species of endemic birds have been found for this area (Roca 1996). It is believed that the fauna of the plateau is of holartic and puna origin. At the southern end, the region borders on the great Huancabamba Depression, one of the most important geographic barriers for the distribution of Andean flora and fauna of southern and northern origin, making this a biologically interesting region.(CDC-UNALM,1991)

It is the habitat for species of fauna of Amazon origin with influences from the tropical Andes and northern desert fauna. It is also a zone of confluence for various centers of avian endemism. Notable among fauna are the Tapir de Altura (Tapirus pinchaque), Venado del Páramo (Mazama rufina), Oso de Anteojos (Tremarctus ornatus), Pudú (Pudu mephistophiles), and Musaraña de cola corta (Cryptotis sp.). Species with restricted distribution include lizards (Stenocercus huancabambae), frogs (Astrotheca galeata , G. Lateonata, Phrynopus parkeri, P.nebulastes, Eleutherodactylus), butterflies (Batos, Dismorphia , Pagyris, Veladyris), and endangered birds like the pava (Penelope barbata) and perico (Hapalopsittaca pyrrhops). Finally, notable species of flora include the Quina (Chinchona officinallis) and Cedro colorado (Schmardaea microphylla). (Rodriguez 1996).

Current Status
Through long occupied by humans, this high altitude ecoregion remained largely in tact until recent years. Increased in human population and subsequent use of the large for agriculture is destroying large areas of páramo around human settlements.

Types and Severity of Threats
In this area there are numerous human settlements and highways that cross the plateau, breaking up the ecoregion. With the recent expansion of human activities, particularly agriculture and mining, these habitats are being altered and destroyed. The soils of the prairie grasses are fertile but highly susceptible to erosion and the rivers are sometimes contaminated by mining waste.

Justification of Ecoregion Delineation
This páramo ecoregion was originally derived from the Instituto Geográfico Nacional (1987) map of Peru. Extensions into Ecuador, and southern portions of this ecoregion in Peru which are classified as "puna" on the aforementioned map were determined from expert opinion at a priority setting workshop of Andean ecoregions (Bogota, Colombia, 24-26 July, 2000).

Bibby C, J. ; Collar , J. and Crosby, M. 1992. Putting Biodiversity on the map: Priority areas for global conservation. United Kingdom.

Brack Egg, A. 1988. Ecología de un País Complejo. Gran Geografía del Perú. CDC-UNALM. 1991. Plan director del SINUC una aproximación desde la diversidad biológica. Lima

Complejo Ecoregional de los Andes del Norte (CEAN). Experts and ecoregional priority setting workshop. Bogota, Colombia, 24-26, July, 2000.

Ferreyra, R. 1988. Flora y Vegetación del Perú. Gran Geografía del Perú.

Instituto Geográfico Nacional. 1987. Ecoregiones del Peru. Map 1:5,000,000. Atlas del Peru, Lima, Peru.

INRENA. 2000. Perú; Áreas Naturales Protegidas. Lima.

Pulgar Vidal, J. 1967. Geografía del Perú. Las 8 regiones naturales. Lima.

Pulido, V. 1991. El Libro Rojo de la Fauna Silvestre del Perú. Lima.

Roca, R. ; Adkins, L. et al. 1996. Wings from Afar, An Ecoregional Approach to conservation of Neotropical Migratory Birds in South America.

Rodríguez, L. 1996. Diversidad Biológica del Perú: Zonas Prioritarias para su Conservación. Proyecto FANPE GTZ-INRENA. Lima.

Weberbauer, A. 1945. El mundo vegetal de los Andes Peruanos Estudio Fitogeográfico. Lima.

WWF-OPP. Ecorregión de los Andes del Norte. Informe bioecológico final. Lima, Diciembre, 1999.

Prepared by: Juan Carlos Riveros Salcedo
Reviewed by: In process