It is a high-mountain ecosystem located in the Andes of South America, between the upper limit of the high Andean forests and the lower limit of perpetual snow (between 3,000 and 4,000 meters above sea level).
Most of the paramos are located north of the Andes Mountains, from Venezuela to Peru (between 3.5 and 7 million ha).
Colombia has more than half of the world’s paramos and the latter account for 2.5% of the country’s total area.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which has conducted studies in the paramos, the paramo is an ecosystem, a biome, a landscape, a geographical area, a living area, a production space and even a climate state. This definition varies depending on the person who intervenes in the territory. For example, for a farmer, the paramo is the territory on which he carries out all his productive and reproductive activities, whose political, social, cultural and environmental dimensions affect the dynamics of the ecosystem.
In Colombia, about 60% of the water consumed comes from the paramos. According to Colombia’s Ministry of the Environment, the paramo is an ecological unit essential to the regulation of water flows. Indeed, it is able to retain large volumes of water in their soils, like a gigantic sponge, and control their flow in watersheds. In recent decades, the paramos have been transformed into pastures or agricultural fields. In 2019, for two months, a third of the city of Ipiales experienced a water cut. These cuts were due to low rainfall in the region but also to the destruction of the paramos and thus to their reduced storage capacity.
In order to contribute to the restoration of this ecosystem and to protect the water resource, the Impulso Verde Colombia Foundation and local associations belonging to the Impulso Verde’s nursery network are reforesting, with the help of endemic species, the watersheds and the riverbanks of the subparamo.
It is estimated that less than 30% of the original forests in the Colombian Andes have survived to the present day.
The Andean forests are located between 1,000 and 3,300 m above sea level.
We distinguish 3 main ecosystems:
– Sub-Andean rainforest (between 1,200 and 2,000 metres above sea level),
– High Andean rainforest (between 2,000 and 3,300 metres above sea level).
– Páramo (altitudes above 3,300 metres).
From 1,800 metres above sea level, these forests are often covered in fog. This is why they are also called “cloud forests”, collecting water drop by drop through their leaves and branches and thanks to dozens of species of plants and mosses in symbiosis with each tree. These forests provide water for the streams and rivers that originate in the páramos and give rise to new water sources.
The Andean forests are the world par excellence of bromeliads and orchids. They are also characterised by an impressive number of birds and amphibians.
The high Andean forest is characterised by a layer of trees and bushes 3 to 8 metres high. Its regeneration is very slow due to the very restrictive temperature conditions.