Escudo de la República de Colombia

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The Guerrero Andean tundra, burdened by agriculture

The soil of this ecosystem has lost its capacity to hold carbon due to potato crops and cattle pasturing, among others. Therefore the land needs a mid-term conservation plan.

Bogotá D. C., 03 de marzo de 2016Agencia de Noticias UN-

The Guerrero Andean tundra is located in the settlement of San Antonio of the municipality of Tausa (Province of Cundinamarca).

Potato crops occupy a great part of the Andean tundra.

Currently the area is impacted by soil erosion.

The research project analyzed the capacity of the soil to retain carbon.

If the agricultural and cattle farming activities the land will continue to erode.

If the area is appointed a natural preservation area, the Andean tundra could recover.

A research project carried out by Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNal) Agrarian Sciences master’s candidate Melissa Lis Gutiérrez, discovered that 42% of the area is used for agriculture and pasturing activities.

Also the research project showed that the soil has lost its water holding capacity, due to physical degradation, caused in most part by inappropriate tillaging and over-pasturing.

“All this has produced soil chemical degradation processes and water pollution due to fertilizer and agricultural chemical leaching,” said Gutiérrez.

The research project warns of a future worrisome scenario if crops continue to expand in this Andean tundra located in the settlement of San Antonio of the municipality of Tausa (Province of Cundinamarca). “This is vitally important because this is the second largest after the Sumapaz Andean tundra, but also it has been the most intervened.

This ecosystem provides water to the Neusa water reservoir, several minor settlement water utility companies and the municipalities of Zipaquirá, Cogua, Tausa, and is also part of the Bogotá water system.

Up to now the information on the status of the soil of the Andean tundra has been scarce, making implementing management strategies difficult.

To measure the current quality of the soils and its carbon storage capacity, Gutiérrez measured each zone of the Andean tundra such as potato crops, grazing pastures and native species and a vegetation of an encenillo forest.

The researcher performed a sampling every 10 cms up to a deepness of one meter and collected them in cylinders and later determined the density and the carbon holding capacity.

They estimated that since 1950 this Andean tundra began to transform with the exploitation of its natural resources and intensive soil use, unbalancing the ecosystem and the landscape.

The research project also proposes scenarios such as how the future of the tundra will be if the impact caused by the hand of man is not diminished.

“If the potato crops are eliminated to let the land rest, for the year 2020, the soil could be restored and the risk of erosion would diminish because the vegetation on the topsoil would increase, producing a dense forest,” he said.

If on the contrary the current pastures turn into agricultural land the structure of the soil would be even more altered, depleting the organic carbon reserve. Furthermore the topography of the tundra makes erosion grow, altering the water regulating capacity and the soil quality.

Lastly the researcher said that for the year 2030 great part of the vegetation of the area could recover if the areas impacted by agricultural activities turn into protected areas.

“We need preservation and reforestation strategies with native species; therefore the risk of erosion would diminish because they would be protected with vegetation and they would increase their capability to absorb carbon,” she said.

However in any of the three scenarios, if the temperature continues to increase due to climate change, the capability of the soil to hold moisture will also be affected.

(Por: Fin/VC/MLA/APBL
)
N.° 212

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