Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Desolate beauty

Páramo de Oceta, near small Colombian town Mongui is fantastic place. Páramo (from the Spanish word for "desolate territory") is a unique ecosystem. It is located in the high elevations, between the upper forest line (about 3000 m altitude) and the permanent snow line (about 5000 m). The ecosystem consists of mostly glacier formed valleys and plains with a large variety of lakes, peat bogs and wet grasslands intermingled with shrub lands and forest patches. Nearly 57% of this ecosystem worldwide is found in Colombia.

The plants here very unusual and beautiful, would take time and special knowledge to explore about 5000 different plant species. About 60% of these species are endemic, adapted to the specific physio-chemical and climatic conditions, such as the low atmospheric pressure, intense ultra-violet radiation, and the drying effects of wind. Most spectacular from them is Espeletia, commonly known as Frailejón. It grows 1 cm a year. Many of them are 200 - 300 and up years old, and remember Spanish conquistadors. The flowers are usually yellow, similar to daisies, or tiny Sunflowers. Old dry flowers remains on stem forming protective layer. Look what reminds Joshua Tree.
Páramo ecosystem is very fragile.What is still remains is very close to area inhabited by people, under the threat of farmland expansion. Gradually native flora getting replaced by more useful potato plant... Locals have a hope to make Páramo de Oceta a tourist attraction, but too many visitors can be equally damaging.

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