Vilcanota, Polylepis: Tourism, New Reservations and Restoration.

Vilcanota, Polylepis: Tourism, New Reservations and Restoration.

Since 2001, the Association of Andean Ecosystems (ECOAN) has been managing the project "Conservation of the Polylepis forests of the Cordillera Vilcanota,” implementing various conservation strategies for the benefit of local communities. Activities are mainly focused on reforestation campaigns, creation of Private Conservation Areas, provision of fuel-efficient kitchens, protection of forests and forest areas, installation of greenhouses, health campaigns, and installation of solar panels, among other activities, all of which are of urgent need for the benefit of local communities and the forest.

  • Status: ACTIVE
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  • American Bird Conservancy
    PROFONANPE
    Rainforest Concern
    Blue Moon Foundation
    Fish and Wildlife Service
    MacArthur Foundation
    FONDAM
    Amazonas Explorer
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Background of the Project: Community Reserve of Polylepis Forests in the Cordillera del Vilcanota
In the central part of the Cordillera Vilcanota there are remnants of "Queuñales" (Polylepis) forests, distributed from 3800 to 5000 meters above sea level, located in many cases at the foot of snowy, fragile ecosystems which make up the habitat for diverse flora and fauna, including many threatened and endemic species of these forests such as: Anairetes alpinus (EN), Leptasthenura xenothorax (EN) and Cinclodes aricomae (CR). The forests are also the habitat of mammals such as the puma (Puma concolor), the mountain viscacha (Lagidium viscacia), the Andean cat, and Lestoros Inca (an endemic marsupial). From an ethnobotanical perspective, almost 50% of the species of herbaceous plants are used medicinally by local people. It’s also important to note that the vast majority of Polylepis species are considered threatened (IUCN). The Polylepis forests are vital because they provide various ecosystem services such as: • Reduce the carbon footprint by helping to balance carbon dioxide and oxygen through photosynthesis. • During the dry season the forests gradually discharge the water stored during the rainy season by accompanying flora such as moss and other shrubs. • Decrease and prevent soil erosion processes, retaining nutrients and sediment. • At the foot of the forests there are snow-capped mountains, lagoons, wetlands and reservoirs that allow us to regulate and store water. Polylepis forests are the habitat of a variety of endemic species, of which three species of birds are in danger of extinction: Royal Cinclodes (Cinclodes aricomae) - Critically Endangered, White-browed Tit-Spinetail (Leptasthenura xenothorax) - Endangered, and Ash-breasted Tit-Tyrant (Anairetes alpines) - Endangered. Polylepis forests are vital to reducing soil erosion, retaining nutrients and sediment, and producing oxygen. During the dry season they help gradually discharge water stored during the rainy season (within the mosses). In addition, along the Cordillera Vilcanota are snowy areas which constitute the main sources for intensive agriculture on valley floor. According to Jon Fjeldså, a renowned avifauna expert, in the future these areas will be important for water conservation and biodiversity and there is potential for developing hydroelectric and irrigation projects. It is also hypothesized that these areas could remain relatively stable to the effects of climate change.
Long-term Objectives: Create and consolidate a Polylepis Forest Reserve System directed and led by local rural communities, with realistic alternatives conducive to the use and sustainable development of high Andean forests, which will allow for the recovery of critical bird populations.
Short-term Objectives: Preserve the biological diversity of the Polylepis forests in the Cordillera Vilcanota. Provide viable alternatives for the sustainable use of the forest. Support the improvement of the living conditions of rural families. Strengthen the organization of rural communities and generate favorable conditions for the management of the Community Reserve System.

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REFORESTATION PROGRAM
From 2002 to 2016 the Association of Andean Ecosystems (ECOAN) has succeeded in planting more than one million Queuña trees in the central part of the Vilcanota mountain range, including the species of Polylepis lanata, Polylepis subsericans, Polylepis pepei, and Polylepis incana. This area is in the provinces of Urubamba and Calca and in the districts of Ollantaytambo, Urubamba, Calca and Lares. Here ECOAN has succeeded in working with 21 rural communities and 8000 families. It should be noted that these Andean ecosystems provide us with various ecosystem services, including the following:
• Reducing the carbon footprint by helping to balance carbon dioxide and oxygen through photosynthesis.
• During the dry season, gradually discharging the water stored during the rainy season in flora such as mosses and other shrubs.
• Decreasing and preventing the process of soil erosion, retaining nutrients and sediment.
• At the foot of the forests, there are snow-capped mountains, lagoons, wetlands and reservoirs which allow us to regulate and store water.
QUEUÑA RAYMI is the festival in which we seek to plant the most number of Polylepis seedlings possible in one single day.
In order to continue reforestation with more seedlings, we created the Queuña Raymi festival in 2014, which consists of planting the largest number of seedlings possible in a single day with the participation of all the families of the local rural communities. In the 2015 Queuña Raymi program we successfully planted 76,000 seedlings of polylepis and 100,000 seedlings in 2016. The participation of all those involved in conservation and care of the environment is transcendental. This is why ECOAN and its strategic partner AMERICAN BIRD CONSERVANCY began working on this important task. Since 2007 we have counted on the support of the travel company Amazonas Explorer led by Paul Cripps, as well as other companies such as LATA, Discover Adventure, CA Peru Turismo, Nature Services Peru, Hostel Ollantaytambo, 40in40, Green Our Planet, 1% for the Planet, Global Basecamps, Inca Group, and the municipality of Urubamba. We invite you to participate and be part of this great celebration of conservation for all people and institutions. We are only able to raise the necessary funds every year thanks to your generous contributions. Thanks to this work every day we are recovering and restoring the high Andean forests and thereby recovering biodiversity and water stores, to leave a legacy for our future generations.
FORMATION OF THE NETWORK OF PRIVATE CONSERVATION AREAS
The National System of Protected Areas in Peru (SINANPE) rules the Protected Conservation Areas. In this context, the Association of Andean Ecosystems, with the coordination and funding of the American Bird Conservancy (ABC), Global Conservation Fund (GCF) and other financial institutions, has been establishing Private Conservation Areas (PCAs) of Polylepis Forests in the Vilcanota mountain range, which are promoted by the rural communities, owners and administrators of the PCAs.

There are eight Private Conservation Areas recognized by the Ministry of the Environment: Abra Malaga Thastayoc - Royal Cinclodes (Rural Community Abra Málaga Thastayoc), PCA Hatun Queuña - Quishuarani Ccollana, PCA Siete Cataratas (Rural Community Quishuarani Ccollana), PCA Mantanay (Producers Association San Isidro Cusibamba), PCA Choquechaca (Rural Community Ollanta), PCA Sele Tecse Lares Ayllu (Rural Community Lares Ayllu Talana), PCA Qosqoccahuarina (Rural Community Rumira Sondormayo), and PCA Pampacorral (Rural Community Pampacorral). The file for the recognition of the PCA Kuntur Wachana is currently being processed on the grounds of the Huaran Cooperative. Within the Polylepis forests one can find endemic species of birds such as Cinclodes aricomae (CR), Anairetes alpinus (EN), and Leptasthenura xenothorax (EN). OF THE CONSTITUTION, AND, DENOMINATION LEGALLY CONSTITUTED BY QUALITY OF A LEGAL PERSON THE NONPROFIT ASSOCIATION WHICH WILL HAVE THE NAME "NETWORK OF PRIVATE CONSERVATION AREAS OF THE CORDILLERA VILCANOTA IN THE SACRED VALLEY OF THE INCAS-CUSCO", IS CONSTITUTED AS A LEGAL PERSON OF PRIVATE LAW, WITHOUT PURPOSE OF PROFIT. OF THE PURPOSES AND OBJECTIVES, THE ASSOCIATION HAS THE GOAL TO UNITE, PROMOTE, REPRESENT AND DEFEND THE INTERESTS OF MEMBERS OF THE ASSOCIATION, AND TO PROMOTE THE STRENGTHENING AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF THE PRIVATE CONSERVATION AREAS. TO ENSURE FOR THE COMPLIANCE OF THE PURPOSES MENTIONED, THE ASSOCIATION MAY, IN THE NAME OF ITS ASSOCIATES, DEVELOP THE FOLLOWING ACTIVITIES:
A) DISSEMINATION AND TOURISTIC PROMOTION OF THE PRIVATE CONSERVATION AREAS EXISTING IN THE PROPERTY OF PARTNERS OF THE ASSOCIATION.
B) DEVELOPMENT OF ACTIVITIES TO HELP COMPLEMENT THE WELFARE AND IMPROVE THE QUALITY OF LIFE OF ITS PARTNERS.
C) SEEK SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF CONSERVATION AREAS THROUGH THE DEVELOPMENT OF DIFFERENT CONSERVATION STRATEGIES AND TO RECOVER AND MAINTAIN THE HABITAT OF THE BIODIVERSITY OF NATIVE EXISTING FORESTS WITHIN THE PCA’S.
There are eight Private Conservation Areas recognized by the Ministry of the Environment: Abra Malaga Thastayoc - Royal Cinclodes (Rural Community Abra Málaga Thastayoc), PCA Hatun Queuña - Quishuarani Ccollana, PCA Siete Cataratas (Rural Community Quishuarani Ccollana), PCA Mantanay (Producers Association San Isidro Cusibamba), PCA Choquechaca (Rural Community Ollanta), PCA Sele Tecse Lares Ayllu (Rural Community Lares Ayllu Talana), PCA Qosqoccahuarina (Rural Community Rumira Sondormayo), and PCA Pampacorral (Rural Community Pampacorral). The file for the recognition of the PCA Kuntur Wachana is currently being processed on the grounds of the Huaran Cooperative. Within the Polylepis forests one can find endemic species of birds such as Cinclodes aricomae (CR), Anairetes alpinus (EN), and Leptasthenura xenothorax (EN).

DETERMINATION OF THE HYDROLOGICAL BALANCE OF SIX POLYLEPIS FORESTS IN THE VILCANOTA WATERSHED, CUSCO.
Evaluating the hydrological balance is one of the main tools for quantitative spatial and temporal assessments of water resources. This is the basis of conservation projects, as it will allow us to have reliable and relevant information about the flow of water in Polylepis forests. The water balance project in six Polylepis forests has the purpose of evaluating the entrances, exits, circulation and water yield in these forest systems with respect to the basin to which they belong, categorizing them into three groups: forests with reforestation, forests with little or no reforestation, and forests with natural regeneration. This categorization is in order to be able to compare the water circulating within each type of forest, thus determining the best mode of conservation. The difference in the management and conservation of forests can be distinguished according to the type of forest in question, whether it’s a forest with reforestation or natural regeneration, compared to forests with little or no reforestation. The project has an estimated completion time of three years in order to record the increase or decrease of the surrounding water in each of the different forests of Polylepis species.
Other Conservation Strategies:
• Supplying firewood for fuel to 43 families in the rural community of Abra Málaga-Thastayoc.
• Construction and implementation of greenhouses for cultivating vegetables.
• Delivery of artisan clay stoves, designed to reduce the consumption of wood by 60%.
• Delivery of materials to build protection fences for forested areas.
• Delivery of basic medicines.
• Support with educational material.
• Support with the titling process of communal lands.
• Support for the creation of Private Conservation Areas of Polylepis Forests in the Vilcanota mountain range.
• Alternative Energies: Delivery of solar panels in the PCA Abra Malaga Thastayoc Royal Cinclodes and other communities.
• Awareness and environmental education on the importance of conserving high Andean forests in the Cordillera del Vilcanota, Cusco.
• Training, improvement and implementation of tourism services in the tourist roads within the PCA network and local communities.
Funding Partners from 2000 to 2016: American Bird Conservancy, Global Conservation Fund-CI; Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation; PROFONANPE, Rainforest Concern, Blue Moon Foundation, Fish and Wildlife Service, MacArthur Foundation, FONDAM, Amazonas Explorer.

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