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The national park was established on 1 July 1975 by Supreme Decree no. 0622-75-AG (under the law on Forests and Wildlife, Decree-law No. 21147). Internationally recognized as a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme in 1977 and inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1985.
The majority of the park belongs to the State, although chronic confusion regarding land tenure rights and the protected area status persists. It contains five properties conceded to the SAIS Atusparia, and seven farming communities. In the 'influence zone' there is local community ownership with the northern modified zone entirely occupied by farmers, while the southern modified zone is occupied by small grazers.
2,500 meters (m) to 6,768 m at the summit of El Huascaran (the highest peak in Peru).
The park encloses a diversity of geomorphological features. It is situated in the Cordillera Blanca, the highest tropical mountain range in the world, with 27 snow-capped peaks above 6,000 m. Some 663 glaciers, 296 lakes and 41 rivers discharge into the Santa, Pativilca and Maranon watersheds. The lowest point in the reserve is Grand Cataract, near the northern boundary. The base rock consists principally of sediments from the Upper Jurassic seas and of Cretaceous and Tertiary vocanic deposits which make up the Andean batholiths. There is still some seismic activity in the area; the last earthquake occurred in 1970, and there are three thermal springs.
The mean annual termperature is about 3°C, the minimum being -30°C. Mean annual precipitation is approximately 884 milimeters (mm) (recorded at 3,980 m), falling mainly between October and May.
The wide topographic range supports an equally wide range of vegetation types with humid montane forest in the valleys and alpine fluvial tundra, and very wet sub-alpine paramo formations at higher levels. Studies have identified 104 families, 340 genera and 799 plant species. Puya raimondii , a distinctive alpine bromeliad, is abundant together with other Bromeliaceae species, mountain orchids (Orchis spp., Masdevallia spp.) and relict forests of Polylepis spp. and Gynoxys spp.
Ten mammal species have been recorded, including spectacled bearTremarctos ornatus , puma Felis concolor incarum, mountain cat F. pajeros, white-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus and the vicuna Vicugna vicugna are important indigenous species, but all have been heavily hunted in the past. The North Andean huemul Hippocamelus antisensis , is also noteworthy. Some of the most notable bird species of the 112 that have been recorded include Gurney's buzzard Buteo poecilochrous, Andean condor Vultur gryphus, giant hummingbird Patagona gigas peruviana, giant coot Fulica gigantea, and ornate tinamouNothoprocta ornata.
For centuries, the Cordillera region has been the site where ethnic groups have settled, as witnessed by ruins at Gekosh and Chuchumpunta and at Willcahuain-Huyllap-Pumacayan, and Hechkap-Jonkapampa. These represent the largest known collection of such remains in the world. The most ancient cultures seem to have developed in the northern part of the park; the remains at the Cueva del Guitanero in Yungay date back 2,000 years before the Chavin culture, spreading from Carhuaz to Pomabamba. Thirty-three potentially important sites are known.
Local Human Population
The Callejon de Huaylas, just outside the national park is mostly agricultural land and urban development. Grazing, plantation forestry and mining also occur. There are 74 families living within the national park, with a total population of about 349, and an additional 250,000 inhabitants within the buffer zone. The valleys are grazed by both domestic and native livestock (llama and alpaca) under an agreement with the local people.
Visitors and Visitor Facilities
The park is popular among mountaineers and there is a well developed system of trekking and mountaineering routes, probably the largest in Peru. There is a small visitor center, hostel and campsite in the park. In 1994, the total number of paying visitors at two entrances sites was 83,240, most of whom were day visitors and 5% were foreigners.
Scientific Research and Facilities
There is currently no formal research or monitorng program although research has been conducted on the geography, glaciology, flora and fauna of the area. Accommodation in the form of refuges is available along certain lagoons and ravines. These are either managed by Electro Peru or the Ministry of Agriculture. A hostel currently used by mountaineers, will eventually be used by scientists. There is a modest two-room environmental education center at one of the park entrances, and another is being developed. At the Querochoa entrance, a park building is being offered as a school for the children who live in the valleys. The headquarters at Huaraz is reasonably well-equipped with a computer, radio, fax and telephone and there is a herbarium with 700 species.
Huascaran is the second highest park in the South American Andes and is at the center of the highest tropical mountain range in the world. The high puna plateaux, glaciers and cluster of peaks over 6,000 m make it one of the most scenic of all mountain regions.
A four-volume management plan was completed in 1989 for the core zone. The national park has been divided into five zones: restricted, primitive, recuperation, recreation, and service. The biosphere reserve comprises the national park, together with 39,590 ha in a northern modified zone, 19,460 ha in a southern modified zone, and 189ha in a Predio Luna modified zone.
Many of the inhabitants in the buffer zone have had traditional land use rights, in what is now the Huascaran National Park core zone. In an attempt to allow continued use of forest resources in a sustainable fashion, a program establishing "user groups" has been set up by park staff. Approximately 41 such groups have been formed. Each family has a recognized right to remove two loads of dead or fallen wood per month (on Saturdays, by "ticket"), Medicinal plants can also be harvested for family use. In return for this usage, the groups are required to plant trees (mainly quenual and quishuar species) and medicinal plants in "restoration zones". Sixteen native plant nurseries have been effectively set up at several of the guard stations, which supply planting material. A larger-scale planting program for local use in the buffer zone might help to alleviate the pressure within the core zone. It is hoped that more people will join this scheme, since only about 3,500 of the 5,000 campesinos with livestock are in organized park-related user groups. A small program to replace cattle with less damaging alpaca is being attempted with the most traditional of the groups. Reduction in cattle numbers is also being attempted, but is a slow and difficult process.
Being a long narrow area with several penetrating glacial valleys, the park is particularly vulnerable to entry from surrounding communities. Increased pasture burning, hunting and severe overgrazing in many valleys has been coupled with increased soil erosion, watercourse siltation and reduction of key flora and fauna habitats. Other threats arise from a major highway along the western side of the buffer zone, a predicted (and very likely) major increase in tourism in Peru, and the continued escalating demands of economic development for mining, roads, water power and resorts associated with hot springs in the buffer zone or with the mountain environment. Currently, there are four roads that cross the park from east to west. Even so, there is a continual threat of new road construction, which is being pushed by mining interests and by municipal governments.
Effective implementation of the management plan is hindered by the inadequate budget which is entirely derived from entrance fees at only two of the many possible park entrances. In addition, the budget only constitutes 10% of the total collected; the total is sent to head office and then returned to the park for all purposes, including professional salaries. Furthermore, governmental reorganization has resulted in the transfer of parks' responsibilities from forestry to a new agency with agriculture (Instituto Nacional de Recursos Naturales - INRENA). This in turn has resulted in less funding, a reduction in local and lower level decision-making authority and has increased paper work. There is a need for education amongst local groups, for whom proposed restrictions within the park are a relatively new concept.
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Disclaimer: This article is taken wholly from, or contains information that was originally published by, the United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC).