The hardy evergreen Polylepis is the highest altitude tree in the world, growing up to 5,000 meters (almost 16,500 feet) above sea level. Now severely fragmented, Polylepis forests used to cover large parts of the Andes.
In addition to sequestering carbon, Polylepis forest ensure that fresh water is available to mountain villages as well as to millions of people in lowland towns and cities who depend upon it, including for agriculture.
Transforming degraded landscapes -
Restoration of Wetlands
Even in the dry season, Polylepis trees absorb and store in their roots, enormous quantities of mist from the clouds. This promotes the growth of spongy, super absorbent Sphagnum moss. The abundant water retained by these extraordinary trees and their moss transforms degraded, eroded landscapes into healthy soil, streams, and wetlands.
Contributing fresh water to the Amazon
The fresh water stored by Polylepis forest feeds into watersheds at the headwaters of the Amazon Basin.
Capturing water from melting glaciers
A green scarf of Polylepis forest beneath the Andes’ receding glaciers can help capture and store the water from the melting ice. These forests then slowly release the glacial water to communities below, even during the dry season.