To Protect the Amazon Rainforest and Beyond, We Must Start in the Andes

If the Amazon rainforest are the lungs of the planet, then the Andes are its lifeblood. The world’s last remaining hotspot for agrobiodiversity, the region is the origin of many nutritionally important crop species and superfoods—grains like amaranth and quinoa; lupine pulses and maca roots—that underpin ecosystems, economies and diets. At the same time, agriculture at the highest altitudes in the world is acutely threatened by climate change, with increasingly extreme droughts, hailstorms and frosts. Home to more than 85 of the planet’s 110 climate zones, the Andes is a living laboratory—for advances in both climate science and the understanding of its environmental impact on food systems. For scientists, this offers an enormous opportunity. By better understanding the extremes experienced in the Andes and how the environment, agrobiodiversity and people adapt to them, we can be better prepared for what might happen elsewhere as a result of extreme and unpredictable weather patterns. For example, temperature rises are affecting the size and spread of the thousands of kilometers of glaciers that stretch the Andes. This would impact not only the ecosystems of coastal mountains and valleys, but also the Amazon’s multiple river basins. In rivers close to the Andes, such as the Vilcanota in Peru and the La Paz in Bolivia, glacial melt provides as much as 50% or more of the water. Reduced glacial melt could cause some rivers to dry up in the dr...
Source: TIME: Science - Category: Science Authors: Tags: Uncategorized climate change Source Type: news

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