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Andean wetland vegetation

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What are the characteristics of this habitat?
Wetland vegetation (also known locally as Oconal, peat bog, or Andean high wetland) occupies areas with swampy soils that are near streams, lagoon edges and other bodies of water (springs, rivers, melt water) above the 3800 msnm. It is an herbaceous vegetation dominated by plants adapted to soils saturated by water.

Where do we study this group of plants in this habitat?
The study was carried out in 17 wetlands between 4,200-4,800 masl, in a transect of 141 km in length and 61 km in width, divided into three units. The first unit, located in the easternmost part, is a short portion of high mountains located between the Yucay and Torobamba rivers (ELU 4). The second segment begins on the banks of the Vinchos River and reaches the Yucay River (ELU 6). The third unit corresponds to the upper part of the western slope, near the town of Huaytará, extending to the valley of the Vinchos River (includes the ELUs 8, 9 and 10).

What questions do we seek to answer with the study?

  • What are the biotic and abiotic characteristics of wetlands?

  • What is the composition and abundance of plant populations in the wetlands of the area of ​​influence of the pipeline?

  • What are the primary and secondary impacts in which the gas pipeline can affect the wetlands?

What general results have we obtained to date?

  • In the evaluations carried out in 2009 and 2010, 126 species of vascular plants were registered, distributed in 75 genera and 32 families. Asteraceae was the most diverse family, with 22 species distributed in 15 genera, followed by the Apiaceae families (5 genera / 7 species), Orobanchaceae (2 genera / 6 species), Caryophyllaceae (4 genera / 5 species), Gentianaceae (3 genera) / 5 species), Ranunculaceae (1 genus / 4 species) and Rosaceae (1 genus / 4 species).

  • Multivariate statistical analysis revealed that wetlands floristically can be separated into three groups: a group in the western cordillera of the Andes, the second group in the central mountain range, and a third group in the eastern part.

  • According to our analyzes Oreobolus obtusangulus, Gentianella perscuarrosa, Oritrophium limnophilum, Hypochaeris taraxacoides, Carex sp., And Muhlenbergia fastigiata, are indicative of wet wetlands on the eastern slope. Distichia muscoides, is the dominant species in the wetlands of the central zone. The species Phylloscirpus acaulis, Lachemilla diplophylla, Zameioscirpus muticus, Gentiana sedifolia, Werneria pygmaea and Eleocharis sp. they are indicators of the wetlands of the western slope.

  • A greater richness of species was found, with low coverage, in wetlands near the pipeline than in the wetlands far from the pipeline. In the area of ​​influence, 22 species with less than 1% coverage in the two study periods were recorded only once; while in the non-impact area only 7 species with less than 1% coverage were recorded.

  • We did not detect significant differences between the wetlands considered to have influence and without influence of the pipeline.

Why is the conservation of this group of plants in this habitat important?

  • The wetlands are key ecosystems in a medium with variable and severe climate for the organisms and for the agricultural production of the inhabitants of the high altitudes of the Andes. In addition, they constitute appropriate environments for numerous species of native fauna and flora. On the other hand, the wetlands have great influence on the local microclimate, attenuating the dryness in places of arid or semi-arid climate of winter.

  • The use of the wetlands by the settlers and peasant communities is very old. The wetlands in the dry season become important food sources for livestock.

  • The wetlands are used as food for sheep, cattle and for the South American camelids (llama, alpaca and vicuñas). Livestock is one of the main economic activities in the high Andes of Peru. Most wetlands occur at higher altitudes than cultivable areas. They are one of the few humid places of the Andes in front of the pajonales, which can be very arid. They are an oasis of water and green vegetation of which the human being and the Andean fauna depend.

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