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Ecosystem Spotlight: Southern Tropical Andes

The Southern Tropical Andes, comprised of areas of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, is the most biodiverse region in the world. The Tropical Andes are split into northern and southern zones, divided by a valley that runs roughly along the Ecuador-Peru border in the northern region of Peru. This valley, known as the Marañon Gap or Huancabamba Depression, rests at a lower altitude than the northern area of the Tropical Andes, creating a well-defined, unique microclimate conducive to habitation for the many endemic plants and animals in the region. This biodiversity hotspot was named the “global epicenter of biodiversity” according to the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund. The Tropical Andes holds about 45,000 plant species, 20,000 of which are endemic, as well as 1,500 endemic vertebrates. Over 1,500 bird species, nearly 500 reptile species, and over 800 amphibian species call this region home. One sixth of all plant species in the world reside in the Tropical Andes. One of the more unique endemic plant species is the Andean bromeliad, which requires 100 years to reach its full maturity!

The climate is known to change drastically over rather short distances, creating many distinctive microclimates. For instance, rain forests exist just miles away from the snow-covered Cotopaxi mountain. The region includes many types of cloud forests at many varying altitudes, including the montane cloud forests (yungas, ceja de selva, or ceja de la montaña) that cover nearly 200,000 square miles in Peru and Bolivia. At higher altitudes, grassland and scrubland systems reach all the way up to the snow line. These ecosystems include the páramo, a dense alpine vegetation that grows on a thick mat of spongy mosses and grasses, as well as the drier puna, characterized by bunchgrass species in the colder and drier regions. In addition to these main ecosystems, there are also patches of dry forests, woodlands, cactus stands, thornscrub, and matorral found in this hotspot.

Conservation Strategy Fund has carried out numerous trainings, research projects and fruitful collaborations with conservationists and government agencies in the Southern Tropical Andes. For more information, please check out our project, publications or training pages and search by region or country.

More information about Southern Tropical Andes region can be found at these websites:

http://www.cepf.net/where_we_work/regions/south_america/tropical_andes/P...

http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/andes_climate_page.ht

http://www.blueplanetbiomes.org/andes_plant_page.htm

http://www.worldwildlife.org/science/wildfinder/

http://www.eoearth.org/article/Biological_diversity_in_the_Tropical_Andes

http://www.biodiversityhotspots.org/xp/hotspots/andes/Pages/default.aspx