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Tracking the impact of climate change in the Andes
20 Jul 2012
Editor’s Note: Rodney Garrard is a member of the UIAA’s Mountain Protection Commission. His article The effects of climate change on people in the Andes: melting glaciers means drought, tension and conflict for Peru’s mountain people in and around Huascarán National Park was recently published in the June 2012 edition of eco.mont, an Austrian peer-reviewed journal that publishes research within protected mountain areas.
Climbers approaching the summit of Chopicalqui (6345 m). © Rodney Garrard
What the paper is about
The rapid loss of glaciers, writes Rodney, not only raises the threat of debris flows such as the one in 1970 when more than 20,000 people were killed but also a change in the way of life for the rural residents of these mountain communities.
It also leads to a situation where there is an initial increase in melt water followed by a decrease in the overall water supply for area residents over the long-term as glaciers lose their mass.
Rodney writes that the residents of the 180 kilometre Cordillera Blanca range are faced with the double whammy of dealing with the loss of almost 27 per cent of the glaciers on the range since 1970 (and the accompanying impact on water supply)as well as pressures brought about by the forces of globalization, especially mining and the privatization of water.
The area which contains 600 glaciers and an ever-growing number of glacial lakes is unique in that it is home to one of the longest running research programmes on glacier-climate dynamics in the tropics and is a place where glaciologists have been working continuously since 1941.
Rodney Garrard is a PhD student at the Centre for Development & Environment (CDE), Institute of Geography at the University of Bern, Switzerland. Garrard's main research focuses on landscape transformation in Sagarmatha (Mt Everest) National Park, Nepal, by the forces of globalisation, tourism demand and recent political change.