Recovering mountain ecosystems: key to water conservation

Parque Nacional de Cajas (Ecuador), 2017
Peru and Ecuador exchange experiences to recover mountain ecosystems, focusing on water services.

Mountain ecosystems are of global importance. They are the source of the world’s major rivers and, as rates of precipitation are higher in mountains, storing both ice and snow, they are also origins of groundwater. Thus, mountain ecosystems provide freshwater to more than half of the world’s population, for domestic consumption, irrigation, industry and energy generation, among other activities. (UNESCO, 2014)

This is the case, for example, of the Metropolitan District of Quito, Ecuador, which is supplied with water from the moorlands that surround the city. The Environmental Fund for Water Protection (FONAG by its Spanish acronym) preserves and recovers these areas to ensure water supply, “with a technical, social equity and sustainability approach” (FONAG, 2022).

Based on this experience, FONAG provides technical assistance to the National Institute for Research on Glaciers and Mountain Ecosystems of Peru (INAIGEM by its Spanish acronym), through a South-South Cooperation project on water services research, through which the two institutions share their experiences on the impact that conservation and recovery of mountain ecosystems has on these services (FONAG, 2021). INAIGEM is a Peruvian government institution that works to increase scientific and technological research on glaciers and mountain ecosystems, promoting their sustainable management in favor of the populations that depend on or benefit from them (Ministry of Environment of Peru, MINAM, 2020).

The project began in 2020 and has executed several activities, initially online due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the end of 2021, FONAG’s technical team visited INAIGEM’s headquarters in Huaraz, and was able to visit some of the Institute’s research sites, such as pine tree slopes and grasslands in Cátac, a bofedal (type of high Andean wetland) on the Pastouri glacier route (over 3,600 meters above sea level) and pine tree plantations in Tayacoto (over 4,500 meters above sea level). Acid drainage produced by glacier retreat was also witnessed in these sites. Ecuadorian technical experts found differences between high mountain ecosystems of both countries – for example, in the conditions that determine their formation – but similarities between plant species. (FONAG, 2021)

The project continues to monitor INAIGEM’s research aimed at assessing impacts on the provision of water services (SIDICSS, 2022) and plans to continue inter-institutional joint work in the future (FONAG, 2021).

This initiative is being executed in the framework of the 2020-2022 Bilateral Cooperation Program between Peru and Ecuador, approved in the first Bilateral Technical Cooperation Meeting between the two countries, held in August 2020.

June 2022

Source: SEGIB based on SIDICSS (2022), FONAG (2021 and 2022), MINAM (2020) and UNESCO (2014).