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Andean wetland birds

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What are the characteristics of the wetlands and the birds that inhabit them?

  • The wetlands are high Andean ecosystems associated with glacial moraines or volcanic cones, in which water is dammed creating humid, permanent or seasonal environments. They are characterized by having vegetation in the form of "pads" which slowly decomposes due to humidity and temperature conditions, forming a layer of organic matter called "peat," which accumulates over time, acquiring greater thickness and organic matter content.

  • One of the most conspicuous faunal components of this ecosystem is terrestrial birds that use water, food resources and nesting places that this habitat offers. However, its value as a component of this ecosystem has not been properly evaluated and the scarce existing information is limited to a few localities in southern Peru.

Where do we study wetlands birds?

The study was carried out in the Alta Serranía de Apacheta (ELU 8) and in the Basin of the Pampas and Palmitos Rivers (ELU 9) in wetlands above 4,000 m.

What questions do we seek to answer with the study?

  • What is the relative abundance and abundance of birds in wetlands that vary with respect to the distance to two linear anthropic disturbances: the distance to the pipeline and to a nearby highway?

  • How does the richness and abundance of birds vary in time (between seasons) and space (between wetlands)?

What general results have we obtained to date?

  • We have found 50 species of birds that can be divided into two groups: those associated (those that use the wetlands during certain seasons of the year) and the residents (those that remain in the wetlands and depend on it for reproduction or other vital functions).

  • The richness of associated species differs between seasons and wetlands but not abundance. These results seem to be related to the seasonal and altitudinal migratory movements of the species that make up this group. In the case of resident species, the richness does not vary between wetlands and seasons, but abundance does vary seasonally, which we attribute to variations in reproductive cycles (presence of juveniles and subsequent dispersal).

  • The richness of birds differs in relation to the proximity of the wetlands to anthropic disturbance. The wetlands closest to the pipeline had lower bird wealth than those found at greater distances. The abundance, on the other hand, does not differ with respect to the distance of the gas pipeline.

Why is conservation of wetlands birds important?

  • Wetlands play a key role as freshwater hydrological reservoirs, biological scrubbers and carbon and methane sinks, but also bring together a great diversity of flora and fauna with high levels of endemism.

  • Among the problems that threaten the integrity of wetlands are overgrazing, peat extraction and the growing development of linear infrastructure projects that could alter drainage patterns or block the flow of water by altering the water supply.

  • Fluctuations in the water levels can cause on the one hand the retraction of the system and subsequent disappearance, and on the other, long periods of flood that can affect the nesting or establishment of the vegetation that serves as food and shelter for the birds. Although it is true that most wetlands birds are not restricted to this ecosystem, there is a high number of species considered within some category of threat, so wetlands are of great importance for birds.

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