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Under the project "Strengthening the resilience against risks and climate trends in indigenous communities dependent on tropical glaciers in Bolivia"


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In early September the “Second International Conference on Climate Change and Receding Glaciers ” was held in the national Sajama Park in Bolivia. The Conference also included participants from other Andean National Parks such as the Lauca Park in Chile and the Vilacota Park in Peru. Participants worked in groups focused on different topics and drafted a Declaration...... Read More

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Most of the world's tropical glaciers are located in the mountains of Peru (70%), Bolivia (20%) and Ecuador (4%) (Vuille et al., 20078). Due to its geographic latitude, such glaciers are particularly vulnerable to temperature increases. In recent years, climate change is causing an elevation of the freezing point, which coincides with the appearance of the high Andean troposphere warming (Francou et al., 2003) . This leads to a reduction in the albedo and a greater absorption of radiation on the solar surface (Giorgi et al. 19979). Unlike mid-latitude mountain ranges, such as the Alps, the accumulation and ablation seasons coincide in the Andes, which makes the development of a long-term seasonal snow cover impossible (Vuille et al., 2008). As a result, there has been a decline in the world's tropical glaciers over the past decades. Some critical examples in Bolivia show that several small glaciers have almost disappeared and the big ones, such as the Illimani and Sajama have fallen by 10% in 20 years (1985-2006)

This phenomenon will have serious consequences for water supplies, which will mainly affect indigenous communities surrounding glaciers, like those found near the snowcapped Sajama and Illimani. This populations rely on water running of the glaciers, for their survival and crop production. Climate change poses a new threat to this kind of agriculture, because climate-related pressures have increased and continue to increase in the Andes. This situation is causing changes in land use, in production systems in indigenous knowledge of both sexes, in coping mechanisms and in livelihood strategies due to increased variation and climatic unpredictability, year after year. Furthermore, it is also likely that the frequency of extreme events will be more evident in areas with high altitude, in comparison with low altitudes, which implies an unequal distribution of losses between and within families, with a bigger burden on vulnerable groups. Traditional production and management capacity in the Andes are highly disturbed by the new climatic and socio- economic conditions. With higher temperatures, Climate Change allows the growth of new crops, showing signs of autonomous adaptation. However, it also affects the fragile soils, increases the presence of pests and diseases and increases water requirements (a resource that is scarce and already a source of conflict).

In this context, Agua Sustentable brought up this initiative, which was designed for two different ecosystems of the highlands. This way, it is ensured that the fieldwork and activities provide a broad view of the variability of the Andes. The results of previous work will be combined with new assessments, together with strategic alliances to produce a complete result. In both areas, there is a partnership with the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés (key player in research on climate change in Bolivia) to support university research assistants to develop their thesis within the project.

WEB Design: Mauricio Arriaza- copyrigth 2012 Agua Sustentable