Central Andean Wet Puna Ecoregion (South America)

Central Andean Wet Puna Ecoregion (South America)

Wed, 04/01/2020 - 18:26
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The Central Andean wet puna ecoregion is a high elevation, wet, montane grassland in the southern high Andes, located in the Andean Mountains of Peru and eastern Bolivia and is composed of bunchgrass communities, wetlands, small shrubs and trees, and herbaceous plants.

Central Andean Wet Puna

The Central Andean wet puna ecoregion is a high elevation, wet, montane grassland in the southern high Andes, located in the Andean Mountains of Peru and eastern Bolivia.

Occurring above tree-line (approx. 3500 m or 11,500 ft elevation), this region is composed of bunchgrass communities, wetlands, small shrubs and trees, and herbaceous plants.

The Central Andean wet puna is bordered on the west by the dry Sechura desert and to the east by the wet Peruvian Yungas, which makes for extreme transitional zones. The landscape is characteristically mountainous, with snow capped peaks, mountain pastures, high lakes, plateau’s and valleys.

The Central Andean wet puna comprises magnificent mountains and a high plateau. The area includes three subregions:

  • High Andean puna: This subregion lies between 4,200 to 5,000 m (13,780 to 16,400 ft) in elevation. The area is extremely oligothermic, characterized by having summer during the day and winter at night. The extreme shift of temperature during the day has been a selective force in the adaptation of plants to this environment. Nightly freeze during the entire year is one of the environmental stresses the plants face. The annual precipitation at high elevations is less than 700 mm (28 in). Precipitation occurs mainly as snow and hail.

  • Wet puna: This subregion is located in the Altiplano at elevations ranging from 3,700 to 4,200 m (12,100 to 13,780 ft asl. The humidity in the Altiplano varies from north to south. The areas in the north surrounding Lake Titicaca have eight wet months, and the areas in the south have one to two wet months. The average precipitation in the Altiplano ranges from 500 to 700 mm (20 to 28 in). The average annual temperature is low, ranging from 5 to 7 °C (41 to 45 °F); the temperature varies considerably on a daily basis, with night frost periods from March to October.

  • Wet montane grassland: This subregion is located in the eastern section of the ecoregion, at an elevation ranging from 3,800 to 4,200 m (12,460 to 13,780 ft) asl. These grasslands are located in steep mountains with deep valleys, which originated from glaciers. The grasslands are more humid than the puna.

The topography in the Central Andean wet puna ecoregion is complex, as the Andean mountain range divides into a series of ridges with a large plateau in between called the Altiplano.

In the northern section of the ecoregion, the wet puna is fragmented, including only the higher elevations of low mountain ranges. The northern section includes the Cordillera Blanca, Cordillera Negra, Cordillera Vilcabamaba, Cordillera Carabaya.

The Andes divides into two mountain systems- Cordillera Occidental and the Cordillera Oriental- close to the border of Peru and Bolivia. The Cordillera Oriental is in turn divided into two Cordilleras, the Real and the Central.

The Cordillera Real contains various mountain chains, among which are the Cordillera de Apolobamba, Cordillera de Muñecas, Cordillera de La Paz, and Cordillera de Tres Cruces. The highest peak of the ecoregion is Nevado Huascarán (6,745 m or 22,129 ft) in Peru.