Peatlands and other high mountain wetlands in Latin America


[This is the official report of the workshop.]

Workshop on High Mountain Wetlands in Latin America was a Success

In the Botanical Garden of Bogota (Colombia), from the 1st to the 3rd of October the workshop "Peatlands and other high mountain wetlands in Latin America" was held. The workshop was set on invitation by Grupo Páramo and IUCN and organized by EcoPar and Fundación Humedales. It formed part of a project with the same name financed by the Global Peatland Initiative. This project is being executed in eight Latin American countries with high mountain wetlands: Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina.

Representatives of the countries mentioned assisted the workshop including project focal points, as well as representatives of "Grupo Páramo", IUCN-SUR, WWF, the HumedAndes Initiative, and two Ramsar Focal Points.

The 3 themes discussed were:

  • Preliminary inventory of high mountain wetlands in the region;
  • Case studies executed in a peatland in all countries;
  • Technical basis for a socio-environmental monitoring system for high mountain wetlands.

All countries showed their progress on the preliminary inventory of high Andean wetlands. It was interesting to see the results of these preliminary inventories, because they show that the amount and extension of wet páramo, lakes, vegas, salares and swamps in the region. The inventory showed that there is still a lot to do - not all countries for example work at the same scale and there exist different interpretations of the term "wetland complexes", which means that the results obtained are not comparable in all aspects - nevertheless the results acquired with the small funds available are impressive. As such, the objective of the inventory "to put high mountain wetlands on the map and draw the attention of decision makers and the general public to them" was more than achieved.

Additionally, all countries presented the results of a small case study executed in a high altitude peatland, showing the relation of the local population with the natural resources of the peatland. This was the best section of the workshop: everybody was impressed finding out the varying characteristics and uses of the peatlands in the different countries.

The case studies showed great diversity. Costa Rica, for instance, highlighted a little-intervened 3 hectares small Sphagnum peatland. Peru, on the other hand, presented a several hundreds hectares large peatland in Junin, that is placed high on the political agenda because of its various uses: water supply for Lima, nature conservation, grazing by alpaca and traditional peat extraction by indigenous people.

These examples -- added to those of water extraction from aquifers and peatland drainage in Chile; potato cultivation and struggle against violence in a Paramo area in the Boyacá department in Colombia; conflicting interest of the indigenous communities and the Quito Water Supply Company in the wetlands of the Cayambe Coca Reserve in Ecuador; overgrazing and expanding garlic plantations in the Venezuelan "cespedes" (short grass mire); and local poor trying to find a way of establishing livelihoods in the very extreme climate of Bolivian bofedales, which leads to overgrazing and turf extraction -- underlined that the region does not only have an enormous biodiversity but a great cultural diversity and accompanying social-environmental problems as well.

Furthermore the group discussed a technical base to form a socio-environmental monitoring system for high mountain wetlands in Latin America. This resulted in an interesting discussion and it became clear that there is still a long way to go before we can really understand all the interactions between different wetlands, their socio-economic situation and cultural diversity.

The aims for the next months, until Ramsar COP9, are:

  • To elaborate a regional protocol concerning the socio-environmental evaluation and monitoring.
  • To contribute to the elaboration of a regional strategy on the management of high mountain wetlands which will be developed by the contact group on High Mountain Wetlands coordinated by IUCN.
  • To work within the existing network.

In order to achieve these aims a close cooperation between the stakeholders will be necessary. The key actors include the Ramsar focal points in the different countries, IUCN-Sur, Grupo Páramo and Grupo de Conservación de Flamencos Andinos; as well as the different NGOs that work in this area.

For more information please contact:
Eduardo Guerrero, UICN-Sur

Robert Hofstede, Grupo Páramo

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