Central Andean páramo

Country/Territory Colombia,Ecuador,Peru
Area 32,000 km2
Altitude 2000 - 5000m
Priority critical
Habitat loss moderate
Knowledge good

General characteristics

The Central Andean páramo EBA includes all the mountains higher than c.2,000 m throughout the central Andean chain of Colombia, Ecuador and extreme northern Peru. In Colombia, the Central Andes have a main ridge-line at c.3,000 m with isolated peaks and massifs reaching greater elevations throughout the range. The EBA is split into a number of disjunct areas, namely Nevados del Ruiz, Quindío, Tolima, Huila, Cumbal and Chiles, and Volcán Puracé. In Ecuador, the volcanic mountains average continuously higher than in Colombia, and the Central Andean páramo, which follows the main eastern ridge of mountains, is also more continuous, becoming disjunct again in southern Ecuador and just across the border in northernmost Peru. In northern Peru, the EBA terminates at Cerro Chinguela in the upper Huancabamba drainage in Piura department. The Central Andean páramo is at higher altitudes and embraces habitats different from those of the Central Andes humid cloud forest (EBAs 042 and 046).

The EBA extends from 2,000 to 5,000 m and supports major vegetation types such as humid elfin forest (especially Escallonia and Weinmannia), Polylepis woodland and scrub, páramo scrub and grassland (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990). Páramo occurs above the treeline, and is thus restricted to high peaks and mountain ranges (in Costa Rica and Panama, and from Venezuela south to Ecuador, then patchily south to northern Bolivia). It supports plants and animals displaying remarkable adaptations to the extreme conditions of high altitudes (cold, wind and high levels of exposure to the sun), and often comprises humid grassy habitats, sometimes with heather-like vegetation, ferns, etc. In some areas the páramo supports a scattered vegetation of large composites of the genus Espeletia up to 10 m tall (Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990).

Restricted-range species

All the restricted-range species are confined to temperate-zone elfin forest, Polylepis woodland, páramo scrub and grassland, or the páramo-forest ecotone, primarily above 2,500 m. There are a number of more limited distributions shown by the species in this EBA: Bolborhynchus ferrugineifrons is endemic to the páramo areas in central and southern Colombia; Oxypogon guerinii appears to be confined, in this EBA, to the Nevado del Ruiz in Colombia where it exists as a distinct subspecies strubelii; Eriocnemis nigrivestis is known only from the Volcán Pichincha area in northern Ecuador; Metallura baroni is endemic to the highlands in Azuay province of Ecuador; and M. odomae is confined to southernmost Ecuador and Cerro Chinguela in Peru. The remaining birds are found in various combinations of the EBA's highland massifs, with just four species present in northernmost Peru. Cinclodes excelsior, which is found on the Nevados del Ruiz and Nevado, and then from Nariño (Colombia) south to Azuay (Ecuador), is here considered distinct from C. aricomae, which is a threatened species confined to the Peruvian high Andes (EBA 051) (Collar et al. 1992, 1994: also Fjeldså and Krabbe 1990, Ridgely and Tudor 1994).

Species IUCN Category
(Oxypogon guerinii) NR
Violet-throated Metaltail (Metallura baroni) EN
Neblina Metaltail (Metallura odomae) LC
Black-breasted Puffleg (Eriocnemis nigrivestis) EN
Carunculated Caracara (Phalcoboenus carunculatus) LC
Rufous-fronted Parakeet (Bolborhynchus ferrugineifrons) VU
Stout-billed Cinclodes (Cinclodes excelsior) LC
Mouse-colored Thistletail (Asthenes griseomurina) LC
Chestnut-bellied Cotinga (Doliornis remseni) VU
Stolzmann's Tanager (Urothraupis stolzmanni) LC
Masked Mountain-tanager (Tephrophilus wetmorei) VU

Important Bird Areas (IBAs)
IBA Code Site Name Country
CO045 Reserva Hidrográfica, Forestal y Parque Ecológico de Río Blanco Colombia
CO047 Bosques del Oriente de Risaralda Colombia
CO048 Finca Paraguay Colombia
CO055 Cuenca del Río Toche Colombia
CO056 Reserva Natural Semillas de Agua Colombia
CO057 Páramos y Bosques Altoandinos de Génova Colombia
CO058 Lagunas Bombona y Vancouver Colombia
CO059 Reservas Comunitarias de Roncesvalles Colombia
CO063 Puracé Natural National Park Colombia
CO138 Santuario de Fauna y Flora Galeras Colombia
EC037 Reserva Ecológica Cotacachi-Cayapas Ecuador
EC043 Mindo and western foothills of Volcan Pichincha Ecuador
EC046 Estación Biológica Guandera-Cerro Mongus Ecuador
EC049 Parque Nacional Cayambe-Coca Ecuador
EC056 Parque Nacional Llanganates Ecuador
EC058 Cashca Totoras Protected Forest Ecuador
EC061 Parque Nacional Sangay Ecuador
EC063 Cajas-Mazán Ecuador
EC064 Yanuncay-Yanasacha Ecuador
EC065 Montañas de Zapote-Najda Ecuador
EC085 Parque Nacional Podocarpus Ecuador
EC086 Bosque Protector Colambo-Yacuri Ecuador
EC109 Manteles - El Triunfo - Sucre Ecuador
PE050 Cerro Chinguela Peru

Threat and conservation

The Central Andean páramo is threatened by frequent burning, grazing and conversion for agriculture (e.g. potato cultivation). Above c.3,200 m the vegetation has in many areas suffered through burning and overgrazing (e.g. in Los Nevados National Park, Colombia), although large tracts do remain more or less intact. Below this level, deforestation has been generally widespread and thorough (e.g. on Volcán Pichincha, Ecuador), although in eastern Ecuador this zone is more intact than in many other areas (Collar et al. 1992, Wege and Long 1995).

Habitat destruction is responsible for the categorization of five restricted-range species as threatened (Collar et al. 1994). For these species and for the widespread but equally threatened White-tailed Shrike-tyrant Agriornis andicola (classified as Vulnerable), 12 Key Areas for conservation were identified by Wege and Long (1995)-two of these in Colombia, nine in Ecuador and one in Peru.

A number of protected areas cover the highlands (and to a certain extent the Key Areas) of this EBA, with Los Nevados, Las Hermosas, Nevado del Huila and Puracé National Parks (in Colombia) and Sangay, Cotopaxi and Podocarpus National Parks and Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve (in Ecuador) standing out as of primary importance (IUCN 1992a, Wege and Long 1995). Unfortunately, though, formal protection does not appear to have prevented habitat destruction in many of these areas, and the species within them should not necessarily be considered safeguarded.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2021) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Central Andean páramo. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 18/09/2021.