Huascaran

©UNESCO/SERNANP
Huascarán Biosphere Reserve

The Huascarán Biosphere Reserve is located in the department of Ancash north of Lima in the central-west region of Peru. Its altitude ranges from 1,020 m to 6,768 m (Mount Huascarán) with 11 different types of habitats from tropical desert scrub to Andean tundra. The Cordillera Blanca, an Andean mountain range located in the biosphere reserve, is considered the world’s most extensive tropical cordillera and hosts numerous glaciers and 296 lakes.

The total population of the reserve amounts to 360,000 people distributed across 2,600 populated areas. The population is mostly ethnic Andean mestizo and is mainly engaged in agriculture and livestock-rearing. The region also contains mining concessions as well as a commitment to tourism, although no data are available on the latter.

Designation date: 1977
Administrative authorities: Jefatura del Parque nacional Huascarán, Servicio Nacional de Áreas Protegidas por el Estado, Ministerio del Ambiente del Perú.
Surface area (terrestrial and marine): 1,169,859 ha
Core area(s): 340,000 ha
Buffer zone(s): 248,638 ha
Transition area(s): 581,221 ha

Location
Latitude:
8°50’S – 10°40’S
Longitude: 77°07’W – 77°49’W

Ecological Characteristics

©UNESCO/SERNANP
Andean condor (Vultur gryphus)

The Cordillera Blanca is the most extensive tropical ice-covered mountain range in the world, with the largest concentration of ice found in Peru. Peru’s highest peak, Mount Huascarán (6,768 m), is located in the Cordillera Blanca and contains a variety of formations including sub-alpine wet Paramo, Alpine and Nival Pluvial Tundra, with moist Montane forest formations found in the majority of ravines. The soils of the Huascarán Biosphere Reserve are alluvial, colluvial-alluvial and glacio-fluvial, with residual material soils and anthropogenic soils. Glaciation is a major element in the geomorphology and hydrology of the area: it is estimated that around one-quarter of the volume of glacial ice in the Cordillera may have disappeared since the late 1960s – an ongoing process that will likely transform the landscape of the reserve.

The Huascarán National Park, which lies within the reserve, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Glaciers range approximately 180 kilometres from Nevado Tuco in the south to the vicinity of Nevado Champara in the north, and cap a series of imposing mountains. Around 296 lagoons have also identified within the limits of the biosphere reserve.

Among the most representative vegetation in the area are the Polylepis forests and the Queen of the Andes (Puya raimondii), known for its giant flower spike. Fauna represented in the area include the northern viscacha (Lagidium peruanum), Andean fox or culpeo (Lycalopex culpaeus), spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornates), Andean white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus peruvianus), taruca (Hippocamelus antisensis) and Andean condor (Vultur gryphus).

Socio-Economic Characteristics

©UNESCO/SERNANP
Local people Huascarán biosphere reserve

The total population of the reserve amounts to 360,000 people distributed across 2,600 populated areas. The population is mostly ethnic Andean mestizo and is mainly engaged in agriculture and livestock-rearing. The region also contains mining concessions as well as a commitment to tourism, although no data are available on the latter.

Two million people depend on water originating from the Huascarán Biosphere Reserve and are vulnerable to risks of water shortages and floods, including glacial lake outburst floods. During the 1941–2005 at least 30,000 people were killed by more than 30 glacier-related disasters in the Cordillera Blanca.

 

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Last updated in June 2016

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