Climate change: Save last cloud forests in western Andes

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Wildfires in November 2016 consumed much of the last relic cloud forests on the western slopes of the Andes in northern Peru, a well-known biodiversity hotspot. Normally protected against fire by mist throughout the year, these forests were suffering from severe drought. Climate change and local human intervention seem to have led to a rapid and massive loss of biodiversity, affecting hundreds of species in a short space of time.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Red List, several globally threatened animal species, such as the spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), live here. The area is a discrete biogeographic region (the Amotape–Huancabamba zone; M. Weigend Bot. Rev. 68, 3854; 2002) that has an extraordinary concentration of micro-endemic plant species, most of which are restricted to individual cloud-forest remnants of just a few hectares (J. Mutke et al. Front. Genet. 5, 351; 2014).

We call on the scientific community to step up biodiversity monitoring and to devise programmes that will protect these forests in the future.

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  1. University of Bonn, Germany.

    • Jens Mutke,
    • Tim Böhnert &
    • Maximilian Weigend

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