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Novedades sobre Bofedales
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Research project: Andean Wetland Vegetation

Photo: CCS/SCBI

Summary of the research project: Andean Wetland Vegetation

  1. What are the characteristics of this habitat?

    • Bofedal vegetation (also locally referred to as Occonal, turbera, high Andean wetland, or peat bog) occupies areas with humid soil or swampy areas that are found near creeks, lagoon borders, and other sources of water such as springs, rivers, or melted ice above 3800 meters above sea level. They are made up of herbaceous plants adapted to water saturated soils.

  2. Where did we study this group of plants of this habitat?

    • The study included 17 bofedales between 4200–4800 m, in a transect that was 141 km in length, 61 km in width and divided into three sections. The first section was located in the most eastern part of the transect, in a high Andean area located between the Yucay and Torobamaba rivers (ELU 4). The second segment was located in the border of the Vinchos river to the Yucay river (ELU 6). The third unit corresponded to the western side of the cordillera, near the village of Huaytará extending to the valley of the Vinchos river (ELUs 8, 9, 10).

  3. What questions did we seek to answer with this study?

    • What are the biotic and abiotic characteristics of bofedales?

    • What is the composition and abundance of plant populations in the bofedales that occur in the area of influence of the gas pipeline?

    • What are the primary and secondary impacts that the gas pipeline may have on the bofedales?

  4. What general results have we obtained so far?

    • In the studies conducted in 2009 and 2010, 126 species of plants were recorded, distributed in 75 genera and 32 families. The Asteraceae was the most diverse family with 22 species distributed in 15 genera, followed by the Apiaceae (5 genera/7 species), Orobanchaceae (2 genera/6 species) Ranunculaceae (1 genus/4 species) and Rosaceae (1 genus/4 species).

    • Multivariate statistical analysis revealed that floristically there are three groups of bofedales; one group on the western side of the Andes, the second group located in the central cordillera, and a third group on the eastern part of our study area.

    • According to our analysis, indicator species for the eastern part of the study area includeOreobolus obtusangulus, Gentianella perscuarrosa, Oritrophium limnophilum, Hypochaeris taraxacoides, Carex sp., y Muhlenbergia fastigiata. Distichia muscoides is the dominant species in bofedales of the central area, and Phylloscirpus acaulis, Lachemilla diplophylla, Zameioscirpus muticus, Gentiana sedifolia, Werneria pygmaea y Eleocharis sp are indicator species for the bofedales on the western part of the Andean cordillera.

    • In bofedales near the gas pipeline there was a greater species richness with lower ground cover when compared to bofedales far from the pipeline. In the area of influence of the pipeline, 22 species with less than 1% ground cover were recorded on one occasion, while in the areas far from the pipeline only 7 species were recorded with less than 1% ground cover.

    • We did not detect any statistically significant differences between bofedales near and far from the gas pipeline.

  5. Why is it important to conserve this group of plants of this habitat?

    • Bofedales are key ecosystems in a habitat with a harsh and variable climate for the organisms and people that inhabit the high Andes. These wetlands are habitat for many species of native flora and fauna. Bofedales also have a large influence on local micro-climates, maintaining humid soils during the arid or semi–arid winter.

    • Local communities have used historically utilized bofedales. During the dry season, the bofedales become an important source of food for livestock.

    • Bofedales are utilized as forage for sheep, cattle, and South American camelids (llamas, alpacas, and the wild vicuña). Livestock rising is one of the principal economic activities in the high Andes. The majority of bofedales are found at altitudes where crops are unable to grow, and they provide water and humidity in extensive and sometimes very dry, rangelands. They are an oasis with water and green herbaceous vegetation upon which native fauna and local human communities depend.

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