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Climate and Biodiversity of the Andes

LiveTheLifeinEcuador  | October 1, 2015

Formidable and awe-inspiring, the Andes in South America are not only the longest, but one of the highest mountain ranges in the world. Stretching from the northern tip of the continent and running down 4,500 miles to the south, the mountains are a stronghold of biodiversity and feature multiple climates.

Beautiful sunset in Andes between Loja and Catamayo

Beautiful sunset in Andes between Loja and Catamayo

From hot to cold

One of the reasons the Andes are so particularly interesting is the fact that the climate changes dramatically throughout the biome. Why? It’s all about location. Some parts of the range are closer to the equator, and some are located near the Antarctic. For easier categorization of climates, the Andes are divided into three natural regions: northern, central, and southern.

Northern Andes is situated closer to the equator, and as a result, has a hotter climate. You’ll find rain forests in this part of the Andes. The Venezuelan and Colombian Andes are part this section.

The Ecuadorian, Peruvian, and Bolivian Andes, on the other hand, are part of central Andes. Since it’s somehow midway between the equator and the Antarctic, the climate in this section is comparatively milder than its northern and southern counterparts. You’ll find the largest herb in the world, Puya raimondii, high up in the central Andes.

Last but not the least is the southern Andes, which covers the Argentine and Chilean portions of the mountain range. The harsh and beautiful Patagonia is also part of this section. Since the region is closer to the Antarctic, the climate here is considerably colder.

Rich in flora and fauna

The Andes are home to an amazing diversity of flora and fauna, with each region typically having its own mix of species. In its forests you’ll find Polylepis trees, wild potato, and other types of evergreen trees. Polylepis forests in the Andes also serve as the habitat for a variety of forest birds. Speaking of avian wonders, Andean condors, Cock of the Rock (Peru’s national bird), American kestrel, and falcon aplomado are known birds of prey that live in the area. Other animals found throughout the Andes include the alpaca, spectacled or Andean bear, puma, jaguar, vicuna, guanaco, and the chinchilla.