Tropical Andes: Biodiversity Hotspot (South America)

Tropical Andes: Biodiversity Hotspot (South America)

Sat, 08/21/2021 - 16:28

The Tropical Andes is a region that runs through Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, spanning more than 580,000 sq mi. The Tropical Andes is the most biologically diverse of all recognized hotspots and contains about one-sixth of all plant life on Earth.

Tropical Andes

The Tropical Andes is a region that includes the northernmost Andes ranges that run from Venezuela south into Bolivia. Spanning more than 1,500,000 sq km (580,000 sq mi), the ranges include:

The Tropical Andes is the northernmost of the three climate-delineated regions of the Andes Mountain system. The climate-delineated regions include:

The landscape is diverse: from snow-capped mountain peaks to valleys and canyons. The diverse landscape leads to diverse habitats:

  • tropical rainforests at 500 - 1,500 m (1,600 - 4,900 ft) asl

  • cloud forests from 800 - 3,500 m (2,600 - 11,500 ft) asl

  • grasslands up to the snowline at 3,000 - 4,800 m (9,800 - 15,700 ft) asl

Dry forests and woodlands are also found throughout the Tropical Andes. The range is home to the deepest gorge in Peru, Colca Canyon at 3,223 m (10,574 ft) depth and Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable body of water, at an altitude of 3,810 m (12,500 ft) asl.

Map of the climatic regions of the Andes

Map of the climatic regions of the Andes: Tropical Andes in green, Dry Andes in yellow and Wet Andes in blue

Biodiversity Hotspot

The Tropical Andes Biodiversity Hotspot extends from western Venezuela to northern Chile and Argentina and includes large portions of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.

The Tropical Andes is the most biologically diverse of all recognized hotspots and contains about one-sixth of all plant life on the planet, including 30,000 species of vascular plants. The region also has the largest variety of amphibian, bird and mammal species.

According to the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, the Tropical Andes leads the world in terms of plant endemism, with an estimated 50 percent (and perhaps more) of its species found nowhere else on Earth.

The Andean Region is by far the most diverse region in the world for amphibians, with approximately 980 species and more than 670 endemics. More than 1,700 species of birds with a third of them endemic. More than 375 species of freshwater fishes have been documented but their conservation status is mostly unknown.

Birds are the most species-rich vertebrate group in the hotspot and represent another group for which diversity is greater in the Tropical Andes than in any other hotspot.

With 570 species, no other hotspot has a greater diversity of mammals. The majority of the species, as elsewhere in the tropics, are rodents and bats. The large mammals of the Andes are remnants of a much more diverse megafaunal community that became extinct with the arrival of humans on the continent. Among them, guanacos (Lama guanicoe) and vicugnas (Vicugna vicugna) are iconic ungulates that persist in the southern Tropical Andes.

The effects of a large and growing population continue to threaten biodiversity throughout the Tropical Andes. These threats include:

  • deforestation due to population growth and migration

  • expansion of road and river infrastructure

  • installation of new hydroelectric projects

  • extractive mining for copper, gold, silver and other minerals

  • overharvesting of natural forests for fuel

  • hunting for illegal trade

Map of the Tropical Andes Region

Map of the Tropical Andes Region

Biomes

Four major habitat types or biomes are found within the Tropical Andes: 

  • tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests

  • tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests

  • deserts and xeric shrublands

  • Montane grasslands and shrublands

Ecological Regions

The ecoregions in the Tropical Andes hotspot include:

Ecoregions of the Tropical Andes

Map of Ecoregions of the Tropical Andes