Páramos in Colombia

At 2,640 meters, Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, is home to more than eight million people who depend on the surrounding mountains for their water. Here one finds the páramos, a stunning landscape that’s part of a natural machine that has sustained Bogotá for centuries. This ecosystem is now threatened by mining, ranching, and large-scale agriculture, and millions could suffer if it is not conserved.

This film by Conservation International does a great job of showing the natural beauty of the páramos in Colombia and also demonstrates how they support the water ecosystem.

The term páramos refers to a specific variety of ecosystems that are endemic to the northern Andes of South America and are only found in the high mountain regions of Ecuador, Colombia, Perú, Venezuela and Costa Rica. They are considered to be of strategic importance not only due to the diversity of flora and fauna that these ecosystems host, but also for the ecosystem services that they generate, which include carbon storage in the soils as well as water regulation services which benefit approximately 70% of the Colombian population.

The páramos are also a source of life for numerous indigenous and small-scale rural farmer communities that have inhabited these territories since pre-Hispanic times. A large part of the Andean culture originates from the profound and deeply rooted connection that exists between the people and the mountains. Furthermore, the majority of the rivers that flow through the Andean countries begin in these high mountainous regions, including the Amazon River, the headwaters of which are located in Nevado de Mismi in Perú.

However, despite this natural and cultural richness, the páramos are currently a threatened environment as a result of numerous pressures ranging from the expansion of the agricultural frontier and mining operations, to global climate change. The latter influences rainfall and temperature regimes, which ultimately threatens the water regulation and storage capacity of the páramos as well as the livelihoods of the numerous communities that inhabit them.

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