Páramo

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For the butterfly genus, see Paramo (genus). Páramo_sentence_0

For other uses, see Páramo (disambiguation). Páramo_sentence_1

Páramo can refer to a variety of alpine tundra ecosystems. Páramo_sentence_2

Some ecologists describe the páramo broadly as "all high, tropical, montane vegetation above the continuous timberline". Páramo_sentence_3

A more narrow term classifies the páramo according to its regional placement in the northern Andes of South America and adjacent southern Central America. Páramo_sentence_4

The páramo is the ecosystem of the regions above the continuous forest line, yet below the permanent snowline. Páramo_sentence_5

It is a "Neotropical high mountain biome with a vegetation composed mainly of giant rosette plants, shrubs and grasses". Páramo_sentence_6

According to scientists, páramos may be "evolutionary hot spots" and among the fastest evolving regions on Earth. Páramo_sentence_7

Location Páramo_section_0

The Northern Andean Paramo global ecoregion includes the Cordillera Central páramo (Ecuador, Peru), Santa Marta páramo (Colombia), Cordillera de Merida páramo (Venezuela) and Northern Andean páramo (Colombia, Ecuador) terrestrial ecoregions. Páramo_sentence_8

The Costa Rican páramo in Costa Rica and Panama is another páramo ecoregion. Páramo_sentence_9

In the strictest sense of the term, all páramo ecosystems are located in the Neotropics, specifically South and Central America. Páramo_sentence_10

Scattered throughout the regions between 11°N and 8°S latitudes, these ecosystems are located mainly in the northwest corner of South America, in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela. Páramo_sentence_11

In Venezuela, the páramo occurs in the Cordillera de Mérida. Páramo_sentence_12

Páramo ecosystems are also found in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta in Colombia, and in the regions of Huehuetenango and El Quiché of Guatemala in the Sierra de los Cuchumatanes. Páramo_sentence_13

The Cordillera de Talamanca of Costa Rica and the westernmost part of Panama has páramo. Páramo_sentence_14

In northern Ecuador, the Guandera Biological Station is a fairly undisturbed páramo ecosystem. Páramo_sentence_15

The majority of the páramo ecosystems occur in the Colombian Andes. Páramo_sentence_16

The Sumapaz Páramo, south of the Altiplano Cundiboyacense in the Eastern Ranges of the Colombian Andes (about 20 kilometres (12 mi) south of Bogotá), is the largest páramo in the world. Páramo_sentence_17

This region was declared a National Park of Colombia in 1977 because of its importance as a biodiversity hotspot and main source of water for the most densely populated area of the country, the Bogotá Savannah. Páramo_sentence_18

The 5.7-square-kilometre (1,405-acre) Páramo Wildlife Refuge Park in the San José Province of Costa Rica "protects tropical forest areas in the high elevations of the Talamanca Mountains". Páramo_sentence_19

Cotopaxi National Park contains 329.9 square kilometres (81,524 acres) of protected land in the Cotopaxi Province of Ecuador. Páramo_sentence_20

Much of this park is páramo. Páramo_sentence_21

Its flora includes gentians, clubmosses, valerians, and asters such as Loricaria and Chuquiraga species. Páramo_sentence_22

Climate Páramo_section_1

Páramo climates differ slightly depending on the specific location. Páramo_sentence_23

In Colombia and northern Ecuador, air masses from the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) have a substantial effect on the climate, and these regions tend to be consistently humid (approx. Páramo_sentence_24

70-85%) throughout the year. Páramo_sentence_25

The Andes also play a key role in the climate of these regions as they cause an orographic uplift in which moist air rises. Páramo_sentence_26

This creates continuous moisture via rain, clouds, and fog, with many of them receiving over 2,000 mm (79 in) of rain annually. Páramo_sentence_27

The páramos of the northernmost Andes of Venezuela, northern Colombia, and Costa Rica experience a different climate due to the dry season, which is caused by northeasterly trade winds. Páramo_sentence_28

Southern Ecuador and northern Peru experience the most severe dryness as they are influenced by an air mass from the Amazon Basin, which releases its moisture on the eastern slopes, as well as another air mass from the west that is influenced by the Humboldt Current. Páramo_sentence_29

Overall, páramo climates are known for their daily fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Páramo_sentence_30

While they are generally cold and humid ecosystems, they often undergo a sudden and drastic change in weather in which they fluctuate between temperatures from below freezing to as high as 30 °C (86 °F). Páramo_sentence_31

This oscillation often results in a daily freeze-and-thaw cycle, sometimes described as "summer every day and winter every night." Páramo_sentence_32

Mean annual temperatures of páramo ecosystems range from 2 °C (36 °F) to 10 °C (50 °F), with increasingly colder temperatures at higher latitudes. Páramo_sentence_33

Soils Páramo_section_2

Soils in páramo ecosystems vary, but most are young and partially weathered. Páramo_sentence_34

The soil has a relatively low pH because of an abundance of moisture and organic content. Páramo_sentence_35

Organic content, even within disturbed sites averages very high which contributes to water retention in the soil. Páramo_sentence_36

During cold and wet weather, there are few nutrients available and productivity is very low in páramo soils. Páramo_sentence_37

Soils in páramo ecosystems have changed because of human activity, especially due to burning vegetation to clear land for grazing. Páramo_sentence_38

Soils in the south Ecuadorian páramo are characterized broadly into Andisols, Inceptisols, Histosols, Entisols, and Mollisols. Páramo_sentence_39

Recently, there has been an increase in Andisol soils, largely due to more volcanic activity These soils have a very high water retention rate, which contributes to the rise in cultivation and differential land use. Páramo_sentence_40

This water supply stored in the soil in the higher elevation páramo in the Andes becomes the water supply for Andean settlements in lower altitudes. Páramo_sentence_41

Vegetation zones Páramo_section_3

Páramos are divided into separate zones based on altitude and vegetation structure, with the three main types of páramo vegetation unequally distributed throughout the different zones. Páramo_sentence_42

Superpáramo is at the highest elevation and is usually considered to be the transition zone between the higher, permanent snow region and the lower grass páramo zone. Páramo_sentence_43

The superpáramo zone is generally narrow and exists atop loose stones and sandy soils at about 4,500–4,800 m (14,800–15,700 ft). Páramo_sentence_44

It has the lowest air temperature, precipitation level, soil water-holding capacity, and nutrient content of all the zones. Páramo_sentence_45

Being the highest in altitude, it also has the highest levels of solar radiation and night frost. Páramo_sentence_46

For this reason, vegetation in the superpáramo must be highly resistant to such severe fluctuations in weather. Páramo_sentence_47

Air temperatures are low - cold at night and cool during the day with daily oscillations greater than the oscillations of monthly averages. Páramo_sentence_48

Due to its localization on high mountains, this area is the least disturbed by humans and contains the most endemic species of all the zones. Páramo_sentence_49

Flora includes Azorella pedunculata of the family Apiaceae and species from the families Asteraceae, Fabaceae, and Ericaceae. Páramo_sentence_50

The most broadly described zone is the grass páramo. Páramo_sentence_51

Grass páramos cover large areas of mountain ranges, while others are limited to small areas on slopes and summits of very high mountains. Páramo_sentence_52

The term "páramo" is sometimes used to refer to this specific type. Páramo_sentence_53

It has continuous vegetation and plant cover with a "yellowish to olive–brown" look due to the combination of dead and living grasses. Páramo_sentence_54

The grass páramo extends from approximately 3,500–4,100 m (11,500–13,500 ft), and is composed of mostly tussock-grasses and bunch-grasses. Páramo_sentence_55

Calamagrostis intermedia and other grasses of the genera Calamagrostis and Festuca tend to dominate this zone. Páramo_sentence_56

Other common vegetation includes large and small shrubs, stunted trees, cushion plants, herbs, and rosette plants. Páramo_sentence_57

While these are the dominant species, grass páramos can also contain tall- and short-grass communities, including herbaceous and woody vegetation. Páramo_sentence_58

Due to its easier access and high levels of grass, this zone is more impacted by humans and suffers from both burning and grazing activities. Páramo_sentence_59

Subpáramo is the lowest and most diverse zone. Páramo_sentence_60

At 3,000–3,500 m (9,800–11,500 ft), it is a shrub-dominated zone that combines aspects of both the grass páramo above and the forest below. Páramo_sentence_61

Along with shrubs, this zone also contains small, scattered trees which gradually transition into the grasses and herbs of the grass páramo above. Páramo_sentence_62

Plant communities in this vegetation zone are also known to include thickets that are mainly composed of shrubby or woody vegetation, including species from the genera Ilex, Ageratina, and Baccharis. Páramo_sentence_63

Fragmented forests can appear in the subpáramo due to microclimatic or edaphic conditions, yet the more abrupt changes are generally due to anthropogenic disruption such as cutting, burning, and grazing activities. Páramo_sentence_64

Because of these high levels of disruption, it is believed that subpáramos are made up of largely secondary-growth communities. Páramo_sentence_65

The high levels of disruption also make this zone particularly difficult to define, as humans typically extend and expand the zone for their own purposes, sometimes over hundreds or thousands of years. Páramo_sentence_66

This has altered forest lines, often lowering them by several hundred meters, which has also affected the altitudinal zonation for many animals. Páramo_sentence_67

Lichens are widely distributed in all types of paramos, however different growth forms may be favoured by environmental conditions. Páramo_sentence_68

For example, extreme conditions associated with rocky substrates and high altitudes favour crustose lichens, while foliose and fruticose lichens are associated with less extreme conditions and mid altitudes. Páramo_sentence_69

The atmospheric factors such as humidty and temperature positively favour taller lichens, due to an increase in physiolocally available water. Páramo_sentence_70

Fauna Páramo_section_4

The vegetation of the páramo provides shelter and habitat for a variety of mammals, birds, insects, amphibians, and reptiles. Páramo_sentence_71

Some animals commonly found in páramo ecosystems include the Culpeo (sometimes called the páramo wolf), the white-tailed deer, and the spectacled bear which occasionally forages in the high páramo for its favored food, Puya bromeliads. Páramo_sentence_72

Invertebrates such as grasshoppers, cockroaches, beetles, and flies are found in the subpáramo. Páramo_sentence_73

Amphibians have been well documented in páramo ecosystems, including salamanders such as Bolitoglossa species and frogs such as Pristimantis and Atelopus species. Páramo_sentence_74

Reptiles include lizards of the genera Stenocercus, Phenacosaurus, and Proctoporus. Páramo_sentence_75

Sixty-nine species of birds are considered to be "total users" of páramo habitats, with "41 species making it their primary habitat and 16 as indicator species". Páramo_sentence_76

The Andean condor, also called "king of the Andes", is known for its wide wingspan, but is no longer frequently seen. Páramo_sentence_77

The most numerous bird families in the páramo include eagles, hummingbirds, ovenbirds, thraupid "finches", and tyrant flycatchers. Páramo_sentence_78

Some hummingbirds tolerate the cold climate by going into "a kind of nightly hibernation." Páramo_sentence_79

Hummingbirds, bees and flies are all important pollinators in the páramo, while birds and smaller mammals such as rabbits and guinea pigs are important seed dispersers. Páramo_sentence_80

Many of the larger mammals of the páramo are rare due to hunting. Páramo_sentence_81

Human impact and climate change Páramo_section_5

Humans have inhabited the páramo of the Andes for approximately the past 15,000 years. Páramo_sentence_82

Deforestation has been extensive and in some cases, like the northern Andes, 90-95% of forests have been cleared. Páramo_sentence_83

Other sites in Venezuela and Colombia show evidence that humans settled there at least 800 years ago and used the land for agriculture and hunting. Páramo_sentence_84

When Europeans came to the Americas they introduced exotic plants and animals that greatly affected the land, especially cattle, which were introduced to the páramos in the early 18th century. Páramo_sentence_85

By the 20th century the growing population of settlers led to an increased demand for land, and páramo ecosystems suffered accordingly. Páramo_sentence_86

As more land was needed for cattle, fire was used to clear land, and eventually páramos became excessively burned and overgrazed. Páramo_sentence_87

Both burning and grazing have damaged vegetation, soils, species diversity, and water storage capacity of the páramos. Páramo_sentence_88

In burned and disturbed sites that were studied in the Andes the pH and phosphorus concentration in the soil are higher than in non-burned sites. Páramo_sentence_89

Climate change is becoming an increasingly pressing issue for páramo ecosystems. Páramo_sentence_90

Growing populations in Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador have forced settlements in higher elevations covering more páramo. Páramo_sentence_91

Recent developments such as construction of aqueducts, drainage systems, and roads, mining, and afforestation have been a huge additional páramo disturbance. Páramo_sentence_92

Increases in temperature extremes are forcing many fauna and flora species to higher grounds, and eventually they could face extinction. Páramo_sentence_93

The flora of páramos is adapted to specific conditions and is thus vulnerable to even small climatic change. Páramo_sentence_94

Climate change in the Andes is causing glaciers in the páramo to disappear and a drop in rainfall, virtually drying up páramo and in turn, drying up the water supply for cities such as Quito, Ecuador and Bogotá, Colombia. Páramo_sentence_95

On 8 February 2016, the Constitutional Court of Colombia banned all mining operations in the paramos, prioritising the protection of the environment, and terminating 347 mining licenses that had operational rights in the ecosystem. Páramo_sentence_96


Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Páramo.