EGU General Assembly 2021
© Author(s) 2021. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Mountain freshwater ecosystems and protected areas in the tropical Andes: insights and gaps for climate change adaptation

Estefania Quenta1, Verónica Crespo-Pérez2, Bryan Mark3, Ana Lía Gonzales4, and Aino Kulonen5
Estefania Quenta et al.
  • 1Instituto de Ecología, Laboratorio de Calidad Ambiental, Universidad Mayor de San Andrés, La Paz, Bolivia (
  • 2Laboratorio de Limnología, Escuela de Ciencias Biológicas, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Ecuador, Ecuador, Quito (
  • 3Department of Geography, The Ohio State University, Columbus, OH, United States (
  • 4Consorcio para el Desarrollo Sostenible dela Ecorregión Andina (CONDESAN), La Paz, Bolivia (
  • 5Mountain Research Initiative, Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland (

Protected areas play an important role in ecosystem conservation and climate change adaptation. However, no systematic information is available on the protection of high elevation freshwater ecosystems (e.g.  lakes, glacierized catchments and streams), their biodiversity and ecosystem services. Here we addressed this issue by reviewing literature and analyzing maps of protected areas and freshwater ecosystems in the tropical Andes. Overall, our revision and inventory indicate: 1) seven national parks were created with the objective of water resources protection, but they were not designed for freshwater conservation (i.e., larger watersheds), and mainly protect small ecosystems. Furthermore, the creation of new local protected areas was needed for water resources conservation; 2) we quantified 12% and 31% of lakes and glacial lakes are protected, respectively. Around 12% of the total stream length is protected. First-order streams predominate in the study area, of which 14% are protected. Furthermore, 29% of glacierized catchments (average surface of 677 km2)are protected, and 46% of the total glacier area is protected. We quantified 31 Ramsar sites; 3) high-value biodiversity sites have not been protected, and ecosystems services information is limited. This review highlights the need for future research to fill knowledge gaps for effective freshwater conservation actions.

How to cite: Quenta, E., Crespo-Pérez, V., Mark, B., Gonzales, A. L., and Kulonen, A.: Mountain freshwater ecosystems and protected areas in the tropical Andes: insights and gaps for climate change adaptation, EGU General Assembly 2021, online, 19–30 Apr 2021, EGU21-3448,, 2021.

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