Yesterday, at our local market here in France, we saw Peruvian avocados. Now, having come back from coastal Peru, where they are grown, we have a very different outlook. The tenuous ecological balance, and its rather checkered history since humans arrived, needs time to reveal its secrets. An extension of the famous Atacama desert of northern Chile, it is one of the driest places on Earth, with an average annual rainfall of 0. Here more than in nearly any other desert, life is almost entirely confined to areas with some amount of moisture. As a result, the few river valleys that come down from the Andes form spectacular green ribbons among the dunes.
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Yesterday, at our local market here in France, we saw Peruvian avocados. Now, having come back from coastal Peru, where they are grown, we have a very different outlook. The tenuous ecological balance, and its rather checkered history since humans arrived, needs time to reveal its secrets. An extension of the famous Atacama desert of northern Chile, it is one of the driest places on Earth, with an average annual rainfall of 0. Here more than in nearly any other desert, life is almost entirely confined to areas with some amount of moisture.
As a result, the few river valleys that come down from the Andes form spectacular green ribbons among the dunes. It brings down tremendous amounts of water and sediment once every 6 to 15 years, thereby rejuvenating the whole system, and generating extremely fertile alluvial soils.
Instead, one now sees vast monocultures of asparagus, avocadoes, and table grapes, producing cash crops for the North American and European export markets.
There once were countless Prosopis trees such as this one, which has probably lived for a thousand years on this sand dune, near Copara. Yes, but as engaged ecologists, we were also encouraged that change is happening; there is cause for hope.
The agro-industries overcome the lack of reliable rainwater by installing intensive irrigation systems, which although highly efficient, are driving unsustainable expansion even as they produce spectacular crop harvests. However, the coast also experiences strong winds coming from the coast year-round, which require that rows of trees be planted as windbreaks to shield the valuable crops. Furthermore security hedging today is almost entirely composed of introduced water-guzzling African or Asian exotics.
They require far less water than introduced trees, and will never become weeds. Agroindustry management has also donated land for restoration corridors, a vitally important undertaking at the landscape scale that has not yet been well-explored in coastal Peru or other drylands.
The Kew Peru team planted 7, trees and shrubs of 15 native species derived from the degraded tiny relicts. The results have been nothing short of astounding, with over 70 new native plant species, 45 bird species, various lizards, desert fox and wild guinea pigs recolonizing areas that were nothing but barren soil 9 years ago.
The full results of this work will be published in the spring. Whaley takes a practical and patient view — whereby to nurture back woodland and a cultural re engagement with what nature provides takes time and needs to show results. A patch of restored land on the edge of an asparagus field, showing the difference 10 years make.
Santiago de Ica, southern Peru. Cultural reengagement, he argues, is about changing perception from symbols of a rural, backwards environment to be left behind in the wake of progress, to highly useful and valuable trees and woodlands that are part of the local heritage. The Huarango Festival in Ica, which focuses on the numerous products that can be extracted from the tree, such as algarrobina, a sweet spread, a sweet drink, high quality honey, ink, and more has been a large success, and is now in its eleventh year.
Whaley also works with schools, working to restore small patches of native vegetation inside the school compounds and promoting ecological consciousness through small nurseries and gardening projects. The other unique feature of the southern coast is an inland archipelago of sorts, made up of coastal fog oases, or lomas, in Spanish.
Fed by the moisture provided by coastal fogs, they rise from the surrounding desert and harbor herbaceous vegetation and in some cases various kinds of trees, all of which show high rates of endemism. They are currently doing the baseline research in two other lomas reserves to help strengthen the case for protected area status.
A female Andean condor Vultur gryphus , in the Lomas de San Fernando reserve, the only place in Peru where this raptor roosts near sea level. Whaley and his co-workers are also engaged in restoration efforts the tropical northern coast of Peru, where the circumstances are rather different. The north coast receives significantly more rainfall than the south, i.
As a result, Whaley and his team are scrambling to prepare as many Prosopis seeds as possible, to be sown during or right after the heavy rains. As the trees slowly dying from the plague usually fail to set seed, Whaley and his collaborators fear that much of the soil seed bank is exhausted and this could truly be the last chance for this species in its wild state.
A seed-ball with 4 native species, including Algarrobo, being prepared at a community nursery, near Salas, Lambayeque region. Now there is an additional layer to the issue, which asks of would-be restorationists exactly what it is that they are trying to do. Therefore, some might say that this is just a natural transition occurring within an ecosystem, and it would be foolish, or even a case of trying to play God, to attempt to save the Prosopis at all costs.
However, Whaley thinks differently, and we agree with him. The Algarrobo, like the Huarango, is a remarkable tree, fantastically well adapted to its environment, capable of living years of more, and clearly the keystone species of the riparian and related ecosystems where it occurs. It forms remarkable canopies, and in areas where it is absent, we did not see the other tree species present produce anything like it, rather forming a much more open low savanna.
Further, it has been a pillar of the various civilizations that have existed in the area for the last years. Therefore, Whaley is not yet ready to just let it go… A thousand-year old Prosopis pallida in the Pomac Forest Sanctuary, possibly the oldest of its kind still alive in northern Peru… Search for: Topics.
Lomas De Atiquipa
The sole responsibility for the content of each Tentative List lies with the State Party concerned. The publication of the Tentative Lists does not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever of the World Heritage Committee or of the World Heritage Centre or of the Secretariat of UNESCO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its boundaries. Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party Description In sum, the three protected natural areas cover an area of 35, The lomas are periodic phytogeographic units that generally contain a large number of endemic gender and species Mostacero et al. This large number of endemism is probably the result of geographical isolation, since these plant formations function as islands separated by hyper-arid habitat devoid of plant life Weberbauer , Rundel et al. This feature provides opportunities for scientific research especially for genetic engineering due to its potential use as a source of germplasm for agriculture and horticulture.
Lomas de Atiquipa
Environment[ edit ] Moisture from the coastal fog condenses into water droplets that permit plants to flourish without rainfall. The Atacama Desert of Chile is commonly known as the driest non-polar place in the world. For example, in March , the desert in Chile received about 25 millimetres 0. In a phenomenen called the flowering desert , after the rare rains the desert briefly blooms with flowers.
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