Climate Change, Wetland Management and Alpaca Pastoralism in the Bolivian High Andes Mountains

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Abstract

This paper draws on an environmental management study of a community of alpaca shepherds from a high Andean region in the Apolobamba mountain range in northwestern Bolivia, at an altitude of 4300–4800 m. In this region, Aymara indigenous families face the impacts caused by persistent droughts and climate change derivatives. In the work that was carried out, a series of scientific evidences are presented that demonstrate the dramatic retreat of the glaciers based on measurements and the multitemporal interpretation of satellite images, between 1985, 2014 and 2019. The community’s perceptions of climate change were assembled through interviews with alpaca shepherds and through participatory meetings with all the members of the community of Cañuma, at the Franz Tamayo province of the departmental region of La Paz. Through talking schemes and maps, all the climate-related problems they are going through were revealed, especially how decreasing water availability negatively affects sites of very high fragility, such as wetlands, known as the main source of alpaca grazing. Novel techniques for adapting to climate change are described and mapped, such as water conduction systems. These canals are built with surprising knowledge in such a way that it has allowed communities to increase wetland areas for their camelid cattle. These models of hydraulic management in the high mountains represent sustainable patterns of adaptation and effective responses to climate change that members of the community themselves have designed and implemented. These “local environmental engineering” techniques produced an increase in alpaca grazing areas and greater forage productivity in slope wetlands. This means that today, in times of climate change, the provision of food for cattle is guaranteed for this community.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationGeobotany Studies
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media Deutschland GmbH
Pages65-98
Number of pages34
DOIs
StatePublished - 2021

Publication series

NameGeobotany Studies
ISSN (Print)2198-2562
ISSN (Electronic)2198-2570

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.

Keywords

  • Alpacas
  • Andes
  • Bolivia
  • Climate change
  • High mountains
  • Pastoralism
  • Wetlands

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