Bofedales: high altitude peatlands of the central Andes
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There is an exceptional group of alpine peatlands in the world situated in the and grasslands of the central Andes. The peatlands in northern Chile occur in the most arid part of their range. Members of the Juncaceae are the primary peat-forming plant species. Fresh and mildly saline groundwaters originate from glaciers, snowmelt and rain are the water sources for the northern Chile peatlands. Paleoecological investigations suggest that some peatlands are recent features of the landscape having developed within the last three thousand years or less. These peatlands are unique, extremely fragile water features sensitive to climate changes and human disturbances such as regional mining activity. Much more work is required to develop scientifically based sound management and conservation programs for the rare plants and animals that live in them and to ensure the future livelihoods of the indigenous peoples who depend on them.