We often spend class outside conducting field exercises on topics as diverse as experimental reforestation plots, avian and primate surveys, habitat assessments, and camera traps at Villa Carmen Biological Station, our home in the lowland Amazon. However, this particular day was spent hiking up an Andean mountain valley outside of Ollantaytambo - a starting point for the Inca Trail leading to Machu Picchu. This area is a prime example of conservation science in action: there has been a severe impact on the environment after centuries of deforestation; there are ecosystems and numerous species which have been impacted detrimentally; and there is a concerted effort to alleviate the impact on wildlife and flora by bridging local community support and participation with large-scale conservation programs.
Polylepis pepei grows at staggering elevations of up to 5000m (16,000 ft), making it one of the highest growing trees in the world. The thick bark helps protect against low temperatures. The extraction of this species from the Andes has driven this species to small pockets in mountain valleys. Many species are dependent on this tree and are near extinction: Royal cinclones (passerine bird), white-browned tit-spinetail, ash-breasted tit-tyrant, giant conebill, and Andean mountain cat. The protected area, Mantanay, is part of a conservation program to restore these highly decimated forests by developing alternative fuel and timber sources, reforesting Polylepis, and paying villagers to reforest.
See the original post at http://explore.fieldstudies.org/blog/mantanay-field-excursion-peru?