Puna is a cold, high-elevation grassland region of the montane grasslands and shrublands biome. It is prevalent in the central Andes from northern Peru through western Bolivia into northern Chile and Argentina. Much of the region lies on the Altiplano Plateau.
Puna: Grassland Region
Puna is a cold, high-elevation grassland region of the montane grasslands and shrublands biome, as defined by the World Wildlife Fund. It is prevalent in the central Andes from northern Peru through western Bolivia into northern Chile and Argentina. Much of the region lies in the rainshadow of the eastern range of the Bolivian Andes, primarily on the Altiplano.
Puna grasslands occur at elevations of 3,000 - 5,000 m (9,850 - 16,400 ft) asl, above the treeline and below the permanent snow line.
Topographic and climatic differences along this expanse of high plateau account for different regional plant vegetation types. The World Wildlife fund defines three distinct puna sub-ecoregions:
Central Andean wet puna (Bolivia, Peru) – tends to be covered by grasses mixed with herbs, lichens, mosses and ferns. Many areas are farmed. It extends from north-central Peru, adjacent to the páramos, southeast along the eastern Altiplano of Bolivia.
Central Andean puna (Bolivia, Peru) – covers much of southern Peru. Dominated by shrublands and thickets of tola shrubs.
Central Andean dry puna (Northwest Argentina, Bolivia, Chile) – found mostly in the southern part of the Central Andes along the Cordillera Occidental in Bolivia.
Mammals of the region must be adapted to low oxygen levels, prolonged drought and cold. Native camelids, which include the vicuna and guanaco, graze these high pastures.
Viscacha (Lagidium spp.), chinchilla (Chinchilla brevicaudata) and the Andean hairy armadillo (Chaetophractus nationi) also live at these altitudes.
Culpeo or Andean fox (Lycalopex culpaeus), the small and rare Andean cat (Leopardus jacobita) and puma, prey on the herbivores.
The flightless Darwin's or Lesser Rhea (Rhea pennata) occupies the region. The Puna Tinamou (Tinamotis pentlandii), a poor flyer, is a common ground bird.
Several species of flamingo visit the briny lakes in salt pans: the rare and endangered James Flamingo (Phoenicopterus jamesi) and Andean Flamingo (P. andinus) as well as the Chilean Flamingo (P. chilensis).