Huascarán National Park
|Huascarán National Park|
Mount Huascarán, landmark and namesake of Huascarán National Park
|Nearest city||Huaraz, Ancash|
|Area||340,000 hectares (1,300 sq mi)|
|Established||July 1, 1975|
|Designated||1985 (9th session)|
|Region||Latin America and the Caribbean|
Huascarán National Park (Spanish: Parque Nacional Huascarán) is a Peruvian national park that comprises most of the mountain range known as Cordillera Blanca (the world's highest tropical mountain range) which is part of the central Andes, in the region of Ancash. The park covers an area of 340.000 ha (ca. 3.400 km2) and is managed by the Peruvian Network of Protected Natural Areas SERNANP. Huascaran National Park, designated as a World Heritage Site in 1985 by UNESCO, is also a well-known mountaineering spot and harbors a unique biodiversity with emblematic species of plants such as Queen of the Andes, trees of the genera Polylepis and Buddleja, and animals such as spectacled bears, condors, vicunas and tarucas.
The elevational range of Huascarán National Park goes from 11.483 to 22.205 feet (3.500 to 6.768 m) with the maximum elevation corresponding to Huascarán, the highest mountain in Peru. As a result of which, the landscape is dominated by snowy peaks and U-shaped valleys formed by glaciers, with the valleys and lower mountain slopes covered with scattered high andean forests and puna grassland.
Its protection was initially arranged by the Peruvian government in 1975 in order to safeguard flora and fauna, geological formations, archaeological remains (including relics of the Chavin culture), and the panoramic scenery of the Cordillera Blanca, and to encourage scientific research into the area's natural and cultural resources. Tourism is promoted in the area, making its protected status a source of wealth for its inhabitants and others. In 1985 the park was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. 
Huascarán National Park is home to mountains ranging from 2000 to over 6000 m in height. Huascarán, the mountain from which the park takes its name, is the highest in Peru at 6768 m, and rises above nearby peaks such as Alpamayo and Pisco.
The climate of the park is characterized by two stages during the year. This depends on two major factors: the warm, humid winds from the Amazon Basin, which generate abundant rain between December and March; and a pronounced dry period between May and October, with sunny days that reach 25 °C and nights of intense cold during which temperatures can drop below 0°C, and well below that at higher altitudes.
Flora and fauna
The environment in the park ranges from the Sechura Desert in the west to the Peruvian Yungas in the east, with Central Andean wet puna in the higher elevations. It is home to considerable biodiversity, with over 779 species of high Andean plants and 112 species of birds having been identified, including the Andean condor (Vultur gryphus), the torrent duck (Merganetta armata), and the puna tinamou (Tinamotis pentlandii). A number of endangered birds are restricted to relict Polylepis forests, such as the white-cheeked cotinga, plain-tailed warbling-finch, giant conebill, and tawny tit-spinetail. Amongst mammals, more than ten species have been observed, several of them endangered, including the colocolo (Oncifelis colocolo), the Andean cat (Oreailurus jacobita), the spectacled bear (Tremarctos ornatus), the taruca (Hippocamelus antisensis), and the vicuña (Vicugna vicugna).
One of the park's main attractions and example of andean flora is the queen of the andes or puya Raimondi (Puya raimondii). There is a population of Puya raimondii growing in the area of Catac, in the southern section of the park.
Puya raimondii was named in honour of Antonio Raimondi, the Italian scientist who first described it. This plant bears a gigantic inflorescence that can reach up to 10 m height, with more than three thousand flowers and six million seeds in each plant. Its biological cycle is approximately 40 years.
It is possible to walk among mountains of over 6000 m in height without being an experienced mountaineer, although there are peaks which attract the most dedicated climbers. As well as this, ecotourism, horse riding, skiing and guided archaeological excursions are all popular.
- SERNANP info page about Huascarán National Park (Spanish)
- "Huascarán National Park". unesco.org. UNESCO.
- "Parque Nacional Huascarán (in spanish)" (PDF). parkswatch.org. Parkswatch.
- "21 World Heritage Sites you have probably never heard of". Daily Telegraph.
- Olson, D. M, E. Dinerstein; et al. (2001). "Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World: A New Map of Life on Earth". BioScience 51 (11): 933–938. doi:10.1641/0006-3568(2001)051[0933:TEOTWA]2.0.CO;2.
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