Study: Peru lost half its glaciers, 4% vegetation in 37 years.

The latest report from the MapBiomas Peru initiative  also points out that another ecosystem heavily impacted by anthropic activities is that of the seasonally dry forests in the north of the country.

Peru has lost 3.9% of its natural vegetation between 1985 and 2021, according to data revealed by the MapBiomas initiative . This situation has affected the country’s ecosystems, its biodiversity, its ecosystem services, its functionality and connectivity.

“With a loss of 49.9% of extension in almost four decades, the alarming retreat of glaciers due to the effect of climate change and the black carbon caused by burning in the Amazon stand out. The glaciers feed the springs of the great rivers of the country, supplying water to millions of people, ”he indicated in a MapBiomas Peru statement .

The study also revealed that another ecosystem heavily impacted by anthropic activities is that of the seasonally dry forests in the north of the country. “This coverage has changed drastically and what worries us the most is that we are irreversibly losing it,” said Renzo Piana, executive director of the Institute for the Common Good (IBC).

“The losses have been enormous, with no prospect of reversing this trend. The data sets off alarm bells and gives a sense of urgency to the need for decisive and forceful action for these natural covers in Peru,” warned Piana, who emphasized the impact on the food security of local populations.

The executive director of the IBC highlighted the pioneering and novel nature of MapBiomas Peru : “This initiative provides invaluable information to understand the dynamics of the use of natural resources in the country, since it contains very complete information and for a very broad period of analysis that covers the entire Peruvian territory.

This initiative is led by the Institute for the Common Good in coordination with the MapBiomas Network and the RAISG (Amazonian Network of Georeferenced Socio-environmental Information), with the technical collaboration of the Ministry of the Environment and the Observation Room of the La Molina National Agrarian University.

The results of this study were presented today at the event titled Peru: 37 years of change in a megadiverse country. Collection 1.0 of Annual Maps of Coverage and Land Use of Peru (1985 – 2021) .

For Sandra Ríos, IBC researcher and coordinator of MapBiomas Peru , “this first collection fills a great information gap in regions outside the country’s Amazon area .”

“New categories of analysis have been added to those that the IBC had been handling for the mapping of natural covers in the Amazon basin. The initiative analyzes forest formations of all kinds, scrublands, mangroves, glaciers, agricultural areas, urban areas, and mining,” he explained.

Peru: 37 years of changes in a megadiverse country

According to the study, in 1985, 59% of the Peruvian territory was covered by forests, 3.1% corresponding to dry forests in the north of the country and inter-Andean areas, and 55.9% to Amazonian forests. In that same year, 7.2% (around 9.3 million hectares) had anthropic areas such as pastures, crops, mining or urban areas.

The analysis of the change in natural coverage revealed that anthropic areas reached 10.4% of the territory in 2021 (close to 13.5 million hectares). However, the magnitude of human intervention varies according to the biomes studied, being 7.8% for the Amazon biome, 11.4% for the coastal desert, 14% for the equatorial dry forest and 15.2% for the biome Andes. The departments that by 2021 have the lowest proportion of anthropic area within their territory are Moquegua and Tacna (1.9% and 2.7% respectively).

They also highlighted the expansion of mining and infrastructure in the study period. The first went from 3,000 hectares to more than 119,000 hectares (3,763% growth), while the second went from 99,000 hectares to nearly 257,000 hectares (160% growth).

Accelerated transformation of forests

The study also warned of an accelerated transformation of the dry forests of northern Peru. It is a coverage that has been little studied and that presents many information gaps. According to the IBC researcher, Kathrin Hopfgartner, “the information generated by MapBiomas Peru shows through technical-scientific data the importance of biomes such as the Equatorial Dry Forest, which contribute significantly to local and national biodiversity. At the same time, the data warn us about the changes in the natural cover caused by various anthropic activities carried out between 1985 and 2021”.

For the researcher, these activities put the natural balance of ecosystems at risk by making them more vulnerable to climate change, in addition to threatening the food security of the population.

Regarding the analysis of forest cover, Andrea Bravo, also a researcher at the IBC, highlighted that the Amazon was the biome that presented the greatest changes in the last 37 years, with a total loss of 2.6 million hectares (3.6% ) from its natural vegetation. And although the equatorial dry forest biome has a much smaller extension (4.6 million hectares), in relative terms it presents the greatest loss (8.4%) of its natural vegetation