Saving High Andean Wetlands for People and Nature
Partner since 2017
• Peru: ECOAN
• Argentina: FARN, YUCHAN and the Wetlands International Global Office
The cultural heritage of the beautiful and mesmerizing High Andean wetlands is invaluable. These wetlands represent an oasis for biodiversity and people in the very arid environment of northern Argentina and southern Peru. Their economic value is significant: they supply pasture for llamas and alpacas and provide fuel and food resources to local communities. In addition, they host endemic species and supply water for Lima, the capital of Peru. Moreover, the wetlands capture and store an impressive amount of CO2. However, a century of human activities has affected these ecosystems. In particular unmanaged livestock grazing, climate change and pollution from extensive mining activities has taken its toll.
Since 2017, Wetlands International LAC has been addressing the various threats that affect the High Andean wetlands, in collaboration with the communities of Pozuelos Lagoon in Argentina and Junin Lake in Peru. In 2019 the program has been extended with a second phase and three additional locations: Carampoma-Marcapomacocha in Peru and Salinas Grandes-Guayatayoc Lagoon and Wetlands of the Altiplano of Catamarca, both in Argentina.
The focus now is to continue working with the communities on sustainable grazing for cattle, restoring wetland habitat and advocating for better wetland management. A new priority is to address the imminent threats from (in particular lithium) mining – in collaboration with local communities, governments and companies.
Compiling and using key knowledge about wetland ecology, current uses and threats at the project sites in order to develop and promote guidelines for their sustainable use. The project partners want to demonstrate innovative field-tested approaches to improve livestock grazing practices, wetland management and restoration through pilots in collaboration with both wetland management authorities and local communities. The ultimate goal is to provide a blueprint that can be replicated by other locations in the region.
Lithium mining, a water intensive industry, poses a huge threat to the High Andean wetlands. Due to the acceleration of the global green energy transition, lithium has been declared a strategic mineral by governments worldwide. In 2021 the pressure to extract lithium from the Argentinian Andes has increased significantly. Wetlands International’s Saving High Andean Wetlands for People and Nature programme has had to step up their work on this threat in the past year.