Paramo Plant Communities and Climate Change

Global climate change represents one of the most important current threats to biodiversity, and understanding its impacts has become especially important for biodiversity hotspots such as high-altitude grasslands in the Andes (páramos). These ecosystems contain high levels of biodiversity and endemism, and are extremely sensitive to changes in climatic conditions. In addition, páramos provide as much as 90-100% of the freshwater used in the lowlands.

Project Title: Effects of changing climatic conditions on plant communities of the páramos, tropical high mountain ecosystems of Colombia

This research seeks to give continuity to previous research and long-term monitoring activities developed in Los Nevados Natural Park with our Colombian research group. The main objectives of this project are:

  1. To identify the altitudinal range of selected plant species (e.g., Espeletia) and functional groups (e.g., nitrogen fixers, shrubs, forbs, and grasses)
  2. To determine their relationship to environmental variables (e.g., temperature, moisture, and soils)
  3. To project their potential future distribution under changing climate.

With this research we will contribute to the understanding of the spatial ecology of unique páramo plant communities and their response to warming conditions, applicable to the definition of adaptation strategies to climate change and conservation policies for the Andean National Parks containing these fragile and threatened ecosystems.

Location: Los Nevados Natural Park, Central Cordillera, Colombia (South America)

Timeline: 2010-2012

Field participants:
Alveiro Mayorga (guide Asdeguias) and Paula Andrea Zapata (volunteer)

Principal Investigators:
Maria Elena Gutierrez, SUNY-ESF, Syracuse, NY, USA
Dr. Martin Dovčiak, SUNY-ESF, Syracuse, NY, USA
Daniel Ruiz, Columbia University and Engineering School of Antioquia (Colombia)

SUNY-ESF and Engineering School of Antioquia

For more information:
See Illustrated flora of páramos:

Maria Elena Gutierrez, SUNY-ESF
512 Illick Hall, 1 Forestry Drive
Syracuse, NY
Phone: 339-368-3527, email: