Andes Bofedales and Cattle: The Impacts of Changing Hydrology and Glacial Retreat on Community Livelihoods in Peru's Cordillera Blanca

Mountainous regions are undergoing rapid changes due to changing climate, while human livelihoods are shifting with further consequences for mountain landscapes. Andean glaciers are especially sensitive to climate change with accelerating melting rates influencing downslope ecosystems through hydrologic changes. The people that depend on these ecosystems for their livelihoods are also impacted. In turn, farmers are altering grazing regimes by increasing herd sizes and expanding pastures, processes that are negatively affecting wetlands. The broader impacts of this project relate to climate change and associated glacial recession, which represent the most important threats to pastoral livelihoods in tropical mountains like the Andes. In Peru, threats to pastoralists are exacerbated by growing demands for water and other mountain-based natural resources. Under business as usual scenarios, problems over water resources in mountain regions will likely intensify.

To address the intersection of mountain ranges, wetlands, and cattle with changing environments, partner institutions will conduct a series of five workshops to bring researchers, community leaders and non-governmental organizations together. The workshops will be a mixture of formal presentations, technical discussions and a field-based practicum for scientists and community members. This research focuses on the high Andean ecosystems around Huaraz, Peru in Huascarán National Park, recognized as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1977, and will have implications for mountainous regions around the world. Workshop 1 will present a novel coupling of an agent-based model using socioeconomic indicators and an ecosystem model that creates scenarios from remotely sensed images and ecological sampling. Workshop 2, hosted by a community-based NGO (The Mountain Institute), will provide the background for developing socioeconomic indicators needed to inform the models. Workshop 3 will use the identified scenarios from Workshops 1 and 2 to provide the foundation of natural processes affecting human livelihood from local wetlands. Workshop 4 focuses on human impacts, specifically non-native livestock grazing on the wetlands, and how these ecosystems respond when affected by glacial retreat. A concluding meeting will encompass an integration of all previous workshops across the different components of a high elevation coupled human natural system to create a community knowledge framework that will inform similar mountain systems worldwide. By using a workshop approach with a field practicum, this project is designed to introduce local communities and institutions to the leading research questions on environmental change and interactions with wetland habitat and impacts on local livelihoods. This novel approach will have implications for conducting future research coordination networks.

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