Andean Plants and Animals - Flora and Fauna
The Andes are one of the world's most beautiful mountain ranges, extending from Venezuela in the north all the way through to Argentina in the south. In fact, they are the largest continental mountain range in the world. Covering such a large span of territory, it is understandable that the area around the Andean Mountains should be full of incredible plant and animal diversity. It can also make it difficult for us to comprehend such a range of different ecosystems, although there are certain characteristics which they have in common.
At thedailyECO, we investigate the Andean animals and plants we can find in this mountainous region. To discover how the flora and fauns of the Anean Mountains survive, we look at how they are adapted to this specific region's terrain.
Characteristics of the Andean Mountains
Before describing the fauna and flora of the Andean region, we need to discuss the main characteristics of the Andean region. The plants and animals which live in the Andes are adapted to habitats with the following characteristics:
- Human population: in Colombia, the Andean region is the part which has the largest percentage of the total human population and around 70%.
- Economic activity: due to the water resources, agricultural land and other factors, the economic activity in much of this region is high. It is also known for its exploitation via oil drilling and mining.
- Coffee is its hallmark: a large part of the territory of the Andean is used for the cultivation of coffee. In fact, some of the world's largest coffee exports are from this region.
- Diverse land formations: within the Andean region we find a great wealth of natural geographical formations such as volcanoes, forests, moors, a great variety of water bodies (lakes, rivers, hot springs, etc.), mining deposits and many others.
- Important waterways: such as those of the Magdalena, Marañón and Huallaga rivera. They are sources to obtain drinking water for the population and to generate hydroelectric power. In addition to providing for much of the flora and fauna of the Andes, they support at least 50 million human inhabitants.
- Climate is very changeable : depending on the altitude, latitude, vegetation and orography. For this reason, another of the characteristics of the Andean region is that you can find three types of climates, specifically tropical, subtropical and temperate.
- Indigenous settlements: many still maintain their culture and customs that are characterized by care for nature. They help to support local ecosystems in ways much modern research is yet to understand.
- Unique flora and fauna: these vary depending on the altitude. Next, we are going to talk in more detail about these characteristics of the Andean region that include animal and plant species.
Plants of the Andean region
Now we have explained the characteristics of the Andean region, we are going to focus on its flora. Both the flora and fauna of the Andes Mountains are incredibly varied. Where they live depends on different factors such as the climate, the type of soil or the light availability.
With this in mind, we indicate that the most characteristic vegetation of the Andean region as the following:
- Vegetation intended for cultivation: since the region has a suitable climate and a very productive soil to produce food, we can find many agricultural crops such as corn, rice, cocoa, tobacco, coffee, cotton, mango and many more. It should be noted that Colombian coffee is especially famous.
- Forests with large trees: especially with the presence of lianas. These plants form a large part of the flora of the Andean region.
- Tree-type vegetation: these include ferns, oaks and red cedars. It also has abundant grass vegetation.
Some of the most representative plant species of the Andean region:
- Orchids (Orchidaceae): 4,200 species of the 25,000 total orchid that exist grow in the Andean region. They are very showy and complex flowers. See how you can care for certain orchid species with our guide to white flower plants for the garden.
- Lady's purse or slipper flower (Calceolaria herbeohybrida): comes from Argentina, although it is well adapted to other areas of the Andean region.
- Quina (Cinchona officinalis): considered a medicinal tree from which quinine is obtained. Once this was more widely used in medicine, but it is still used in tonic water to impart bitter flavors.
Fauna of the Andean region
The fauna of the Andean Mountain range is varied thanks to the ecological variability that exists in the region. Some of the most characteristic animals of the Andes will be classified depending on the area in which they are found:
- Magdalena river valley: in this area the animals of the Andean region that we can find are eagles , owls and storks.
- Lowlands of the Andean region: we can find macaws, turkeys, partridges, herons, parrots, ducks, roosters, cows, bulls, mares, horses, rabbits and various songbirds with colorful plumage.
- At the edge of rivers: this is where riparian vegetation is found and it is common to see squirrels, moles, monkeys, snakes, bears, weasels and deer.
- Mountain peaks: fauna is relatively very scarce in the highest regions of the Andes, although you can see a certain birds that are able to resist low temperatures, this is the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus).
In addition, those animals of the Andean region that most represent it are:
- American condor (Vultur gryphus): a bird with the largest wingspan in the world. It has black plumage over its body except for the neck, which is white. The head of this animal doesn't have feathers, but has loose reddish skin. It is somewhat representative as a symbol of the region. Its nests are made between 1,000 and 5,000 meters of altitude.
- Hummingbird (Trochilidae): there are various species of hummingbird in the Andean region. They are small birds which are known for their beauty, the speed with which they flap their wings and their ability to suck nectar from a long beak.
- Culpeo (Lycalopex culpaeus): among the largest canids in the South American territory is the culpeo, also known as the Andean zorro or Andean wolf. It has reddish fur on its legs and head, its neck and belly are white, and its back is gray with black stripes.
There are various ecosystems which can be found within the Andean region of South America. Learn more with our article on the different types of natural regions and their characteristics.
If you want to read similar articles to Andean Plants and Animals - Flora and Fauna, we recommend you visit our Ecosystems category.