Yanachaga Chimillén National Park
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The Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) installed the Yanachaga TEAM site in Yanachaga-Chemillén National Park in 2010 and now manages the site on an ongoing basis. The National Park, established on August 29, 1986, through Law (D.S.) No. 068-86-AG, is located in the Department of Pasco, Province of Oxapampa, within the districts of Oxapampa, Villarica, Huancabamba, and Pozuzo. The Park encompasses an isolated mountain chain east of the main Andean cordillera and has an area of 110,658.25 hectares. It was created principally to safeguard the high basins of the headwaters of the Río Palcazu, Río Huancabamba, and Río Pozuzo in order to guarantee sustained production in adjacent valleys, to protect indigenous communities such as the Yanesha living in the Park buffer zone, and to prevent natural disasters caused by erosion. The Park is the focal area of the Oxapampa-Asháninka-Yanesha Biosphere Reserve, designated by UNESCO in June 2010. Yanachaga became a TEAM site in 2010.
The Cordilleras de Yanachaga and San Matías-San Carlos are relatively small mountain ranges on the eastern side of the Andes in the Department of Pasco, central Peru. The town of Villa Rica borders these Cordilleras in the south, the town of Pozuzu in the north; while the road from Oxapampa to Pozuzu along the Río Huancabamba forms the border on the western edge, and the extensive lowland forests in the Amazonian plains, the eastern boundary. The two Cordilleras are separated by the basins of the Río Palcazu and the Río Iscosazín, where the Yanesha Communal Reserve is situated. The altitudinal range in the area is considerable—from about 400 m in the lowlands to the highest peak in the Cordillera de Yanachaga, at 3800 m. Rainfall is plentiful, exceeding 6000 mm in some places, and the entire zone is covered with wet lowland or montane forest, with small patches of high altitude páramo in the summit areas. Temperatures vary with altitude, and the climate ranges from wet tropical in the lowlands to cold and wet in the páramos. Rainfall is spread evenly throughout the year; there is no pronounced dry season, and the vegetation is evergreen, irrespective of the altitude.
Geologically, the oldest formations are on the western border of the Cordillera de Yanachaga and consist of intrusive Permian layers in the northwestern part, Permian deposits along the western edge, and a fairly large area with upper Triassic/lower Jurassic rocks in the north; while most of the remaining part consists of various Cretaceous rocks with a small area of upper Jurassic and one with Quaternary alluvial deposits near the eastern boundary of the Yanachaga-Chemillén National Park. Ore-bearing minerals have not been found in the Park, and consequently there are no mining activities. The Cordilleras de Yanachaga and San Matías-San Carlos are part of what have been called the “sub-Andean cordilleras,” a discontinuous chain of mountain ranges that run parallel to the main Andean chain but attain more modest elevations and are separated from the main Andean chain by low-altitude valleys. The Galera and Cutucú ranges and the Cordillera del Cóndor in Ecuador and the Cordillera Azul in Peru form part of the sub-Andean cordilleras. The main Andean range is composed mostly of metamorphic and volcanic rocks, while the sub-Andean cordilleras consist mostly of Mesozoic and early Tertiary sediments, such as sandstone and limestone, deposited at the western margin of South America prior to the rise of the Andes.
In 1980 the government of Peru started a development program in the Selva Central, the region between the Cordillera de Yanachaga and the Cordillera de San Matías-San Carlos; this program included the design and development of projects aimed at environmental protection. In 1982 USAID signed an agreement with the government of Peru and became involved in this program with the goals of establishing a National Park in the Cordillera de Yanachaga and a Forest Reserve in the Cordillera de San Matias-San Carlos. During the second half of the 1980s the Peruvian government created three protected areas in this region: the Yanachaga-Chemillén National Park (1222 km²) was established in 1986; the San Matías-San Carlos Protected Forest (1458 km²) in 1987; and the Yanesha Communal Reserve (347 km²) in 1988. These three protected areas are contiguous and cover almost 3000 km².
Each year, approximately 50 scientists from six countries and two hundred students visit the Park. These scientists and the researchers resident in Oxapampa, such as the botanists of MBG, conduct several research projects throughout the year.
Long-term projects ongoing at the site include:
Numerous educational opportunities are available in the National Park and its buffer zone. In 2002, the Missouri Botanical Garden began to conduct its well-established program of undergraduate education for Peruvian students in the Park. The program provides courses in tropical botany for advanced undergraduates and also includes work in conservation education with the Yanesha communities in the Palcazu Valley.
The Herbario Selva Central (HOXA), located in the small city of Oxapampa west of the Cordillera de Yanachaga, currently has 36,000 reference collections from the National Park and its buffer zone. The Herbario provides several resources and facilities for researchers, including Internet connections, dissecting microscopes, a library, and a complete database of the collections of vascular plants of the National Park and buffer zone.
The National Park facilities for researchers include three field stations: the Paujil station at 460 m, the Huampal point of control at 1000 m, and the San Alberto shelter at 2450 m.
Of the 110,658.25 hectares within the Yanachaga-Chemillén National Park, 99.99 percent is primary forest. With great variability in life zones, altitudes, climate types, and soils, the Park is home to a variety of ecosystems, each harboring its unique biodiversity. Scientists have identified fourteen physiographic types, nine Holdridge life zones, and seven climatic zones in the Park. Vegetation types include Andean rainforest, tropical Amazon rainforest, cloud forest, and Puna ecosystems.
Annual precipitation ranges from 1500 mm on the western slope of the Cordillera de Yanachaga to 6000 mm on the eastern slope, which descends toward the valley of the Río Palcazu. Two general climatic types occur in the region: a wet, warm climate, with average temperatures of 23 to 26 degrees Celsius and rainfall varying between 2000 and 6000 mm annually, found primarily in the river valleys in the Amazonian terraces; and a humid, semi-warm climate, with average temperatures of 13 to 20 degrees Celsius and rainfall ranging from 1500 to 2500 mm annually, present chiefly in Oxapampa and the mountains.
Species diversity is spectacular in Yanachaga-Chemillén National Park, including close to 5,000 species of plants, representing 25 percent of the total plant species in the country. The families with the highest number of species are Orchidaceae with approximately 600 species, Asteraceae with 250 species, Rubiaceae with 220 species, and Melastomataceae with 210 species. There are 1407 species of trees in the area, including different genera and species of palms, such as the aguaje (Mauritia flexuosa), the palma real (Ceroxylon weberbaueri and Dictyocaryum lamarckianum), and ungurahui (Oenocarpus batabua). There are also several species of economic value, such as the ulcumano (Retrophyllum rospigliosii), the “diablo fuerte” (Prumnopitys harmsiana), the cedar (Cedrela odorata and Cedrela montana), the Peruvian walnut (Juglans neotropica), and the “roble” (Lauraceae). In addition, 196 species of fungi have been recorded from the Park. Within the Park and adjacent areas, are 463 plant species endemic to Peru and 155 that are restricted to the area, as well as some species threatened with extinction (CITES Appendix I), such as three species of Phragmipedium, (Ph. boissierianum, Ph. caudatum, and Ph. Pearcei). Each year, several species of vascular plants new to science are discovered in the Park and its buffer zones.
The wild fauna of the Park is represented by 126 species of mammals, such as the jaguar (Panthera onca), the spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), the pudu dwarf deer (Pudu mephistophiles), the Branck's giant rat or “machetero” (Dinomys branickii), and the tapir Tapirus terrestris), all of them threatened, as well as the tayra or “manco” (Eira Barbara) and the capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeri). Of the 545 species of birds found in the Park, the most representative are the harpy eagle (Harpia harpyja), the cock-of-the-rock or tunki (Rupicola peruviana), the blue-crowned motmot or relojero bird (Momotus momota), the quetzal (Pharomachrus sp.), the toucan (Ramphastos ambiguous), the Hoactzin, Stinkbird, or “shansho” (Opisthocomus hoazín), and the “pajaro sombrilla” (Ephalopterus ornatus). Nearly 30 species of migratory birds fly between this region and the United States, including the Blackburnian warbler, chimney swift, eastern kingbird, Mississippi kite, peregrine falcon, scarlet tanager and yellow-billed cuckoo. More than 17 species of reptiles are found in the Park, such as the lance-head pit vipers (Bothrops atrox, B. bilineatus), the South American bushmaster (Lachesis muta), and the coral snake (Micrurus sp.). In addition, 34 amphibian species have been recorded; the Leptodactylidae, with 11 species, is the largest family. In the rivers of the area, 163 species of fish have been recorded; the largest family is the Characidae, with 74 species.
The city closest to Yanachaga-Chemillén National Park is Oxapampa, located 398 km east of Lima, Peru’s capital and largest city. Oxapampa is accessible by bus (a trip of approximately 11 hours) by paved road from Lima. From Oxapampa, all access to the Park is by unpaved road, followed by several hours of walking on trails or by a boat trip on the Río Iscosazín.