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If the Amazon rainforest are the lungs of the planet, then the Andes are its lifeblood. Andean ecosystems are exceptionally rich in unique biodiversity, cultural diversity and natural resources. As a global hotspot of agrobiodiversity, the Andes are the center of origin of key crops and highly nutritious foods that underpin ecosystems, economies and diets, with enormous investment potential for high-value markets and inclusive businesses that prioritize sustainability and diversity.

Andean ecosystems are also key in providing water to major cities in South America, and offer a unique opportunity to mitigate climate change, given the fact high-altitude Andean peatlands have excellent water retention capacity and contain the biggest soil organic carbon stocks globally. These ecosystem services are essential to Latin America and the globe, yet the Andean Region receives little reinvestment in return.

On the other hand, climate change in the Andes is literally occurring at the frontline. Not only is the incidence and intensity more pronounced compared to other ecologies, it is also occurring in a geography that hosts the greatest range of mountain biodiversity on the planet and with the highest altitudinal frontier of agriculture in the world, where climate extremes are embedded in traditional smallholder management practices. By better understanding climatic extremes experienced in the Andes and how the environment, agrobiodiversity and people adapt to them, we can be better prepared for what might happen elsewhere in the world as a result of extreme and unpredictable weather patterns.

Source of original article: International Potato Center (cipotato.org).
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