A new protected area safeguards tropical biodiversity and increases the resilience of montane communities against climate change.
The Regional Government of Cusco, Peru has just declared the Chuyapi Urusayhua Regional Conservation Area, protecting 198,156 acres of lush cloud forest. Located to the northwest of the iconic Machu Picchu, and ranging from 3,000 to 14,400 feet in elevation, this area is characterized by rugged mountain forests and puna grasslands that provide critical ecosystem services to neighboring communities. This new protected area highlights Cusco as a leader in conservation efforts in Peru, with this being its 4th regional conservation area, after the recent declaration of Ausangate RCA in late 2019.
The new conservation area receives its name from the sacred Urusayhua mountain and the Chuyapi river that runs through it. The steep topography and multitude of streams make for striking waterfalls. In fact, the forests of Chuyapi Urusayhua capture important quantities of moisture that supplies water to over 46,000 nearby inhabitants.
The wide altitudinal range of this conservation area helps fulfill a key strategic goal of the Andes Amazon Fund: the creation of climate adaptation corridors that allow the flora and fauna to move with the climate and avoid extinction. In addition, this area now becomes part of the massive Manu protected area mosaic and advances AAF’s efforts to make this region one of the world’s greatest strongholds for terrestrial biodiversity.
The preliminary biological inventory revealed that an astounding 936 species of plants and 619 species of animals occupy the area. This includes iconic and ecologically important species such as the spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), puma (Puma concolor), jaguar (Panthera onca), Andean cock-of-the-rock (Rupicola peruvianus), and blue-headed macaw (Primolius couloni). Peruvian cloud forests are known to house the highest numbers of endemic species – meaning species not found in other places – and Chuyapi Urusayhua is no exception. Its forests are home to 34 species of plants and 40 species of animals that are only found in Peru, and 22 of these only exist in the Department of Cusco.
“Chuyapi Urusayhua constitutes an important piece within the conservation mosaic of northeastern Cusco. Through the conservation of soils, forests and all the biological diversity associated with them, the area will sustain the most important ecosystem service for the local population, which is water.”Ronald Catpo, Director of Amazon Conservation (ACCA)
The creation of the Chuyapi Urusayhua Regional Conservation Area was a collaboration between the Regional Government of Cusco, the National Service of Protected Areas of Peru (SERNANP), and AAF grantee Amazon Conservation (ACCA). Additional support was provided by the Municipality of La Convención and by AAF grantee Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental (SPDA). AAF’s financial support for this project was provided by the Wyss Foundation and by Galleries Commit x Art into Acres via Global Wildlife Conservation.
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