The Central Andean dry puna ecoregion is a dry, high-elevation grassland of the high southern Andes, extending through western Bolivia, northern Chile, and Argentina. Dry puna is distinguished from other types of puna by its annual rainfall or lack thereof.
Central Andean Dry Puna
The Central Andean dry puna ecoregion is an arid, high-elevation montane grassland and herbaceous community of the high southern Andes, extending through western Bolivia, northern Chile, and Argentina.
The ecoregion includes the departments of La Paz, Oruro and Potosi in Bolivia; the provinces of Jujuy, Salta, Catamarca, and La Rioja in Argentina; and the provinces of Tarapaca, Antofagasta and Atacama in Chile.
The ecoregion is located in the southern part of the Andean Cordillera Occidental in Argentina, Bolivia and Chile. The area encompasses snow-capped peaks, volcanoes, salt flats, lagoons and high plateaus.
In this area, there existed an extensive inland sea, of which all that remains are the salt flats or salars, including the salars of Coipasa, Uyuni, Chalviri, Atacama, and Arizaro.
The Central Andean dry puna is a part of the Puna grassland, occupying the southwestern portion of the Altiplano and is located east of the Atacama Desert. Dry Puna is distinguished from other types of Puna by its annual rainfall or lack thereof.
Flora and Fauna
The Central Andean dry puna is a unique ecoregion with flora and fauna adapted to extreme temperatures and altitudes.
The region contains forests of Polylepis, the only arborescent genus that occurs naturally at high elevations. The vegetation is characteristically tropical alpine herbs with dwarf shrubs above 3,500 m (11,483 ft) between the tree and permanent snow lines.
Above 4,000 m (13,000 ft), the vegetation consists of floating submerged plants called cushion bogs. It also has forests of Polylepis, the only tree-like genus that occurs naturally at high elevations.
From east to west, the vegetation changes from dry adapted shrubs such as Adesmia and Senecio to grassy steppe with genera Calamogrostis and Stipa grasses.
Various species of Andean camelids are found in this region. Mammals include vicuña (Vicugna vicugna), puma (Felis concolor), Andean cat (Felis jacobita), Andean fox (Pseudalopex culpaeus), and quirquincho (Chaetophractus nationi).
Most of the endemic birds in the ecoregion are found in Polylepis and scrub forests along the lower elevation margins, including the endangered Cochabamba mountain-finch and the threatened Maquis canastero, rufous-bellied saltator, chestnut canastero, wedge-tailed hill star, and Tucuman mountain-finch.
Unique birds include three species of flamingos: Chilean, Andean, and Puna (or James's).
Endemic amphibians include the Telmatobius huayra. In addition, two recently discovered reptiles of the genera Liolaemus were recorded in the Eduardo Avaroa Reserve.
For centuries, the Andean Puna has been highly impacted by livestock grazing, with the vegetation also affected by burning, firewood collection, and clearance for cultivation.
There are some protected areas within this ecoregion; most of them were created as wildlife reserves.
Map depicting the location of the Central Andean dry puna ecoregion (in purple)