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The Coastal Lomas System of Peru

Date of Submission: 05/08/2019
Criteria: (ix)
Category: Natural
Submitted by:
Ministry of Culture
State, Province or Region:
Lima- Arequipa
Ref.: 6424

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Property names are listed in the language in which they have been submitted by the State Party


National Reserve of Lachay

-11.374125 E y -77.361712 N         

Reserved Zone of Lomas de Ancón -11.681363 E y -77.100667 N
Private Conservation Area of Atiquipa -15.741670 E y -74.380691 N

The Coastal Lomas System of Peru, is distributed along the Peruvian coast, from Tacna to La Libertad, which is approximately 51 hills (lomas formations), this time has taken into account the hills that are legally recognized by the state, as are: Lachay National Reserve, Reserved Zone of Lomas de Ancón and Private Conservation Area of  Atiquipa, the first two managed by the National Service of Natural Protected Areas by the Government-SERNANP, in Lima and the last one administered by the Rural Community of Atiquipa, in Arequipa.

The National Reserve of Lachay was recognized by the Peruvian Government on June 21th, 1977, by Supreme Decree No. 310-77-AG, is located in the department of Lima, Chancay province. The Reserved Zone of Lomas de Ancón was established on October 11th, 2010, by Ministerial Resolution No. 189-2010-MINAM, is located in the department of Lima, province of Lima and the Private Conservation Area of Atiquipa was recognized on July 26th, 2011, by Resolution Ministerial No. 165-2011-MINAM, is located in the department of Arequipa, province of Caravelí. In sum, the three protected natural areas cover an area of 35,060.16 hectares.

The lomas are periodic phytogeographic units that generally contain a large number of endemic gender and species (Mostacero et al., 1996). 42% of its flora is made up of endemic species, among which are those belonging to the gender Mathewsia, Palaua, Weberbauerella, Domeykoa and Nolana, among others (Ferreyra, 1986).

This large number of endemism is probably the result of geographical isolation, since these plant formations function as islands separated by hyper-arid habitat devoid of plant life (Weberbauer 1945, Rundel et al., 1991).

The lomas ecosystem is the habitat of many animals during the winter periods, because during July and October there is a shortage of pasture in the mountains, forcing the animals to look for new sources of food in low areas (Vásquez 2011). This feature provides opportunities for scientific research especially for genetic engineering due to its potential use as a source of germplasm for agriculture and horticulture. Likewise, the vegetation of the lomas can be used to recover environments, as well as the protection of the soil from erosion (Vásquez 2011). The seasonal ecosystems of lomas, green from year to year in winter time fixing carbon from the atmosphere, thereby providing an ecosystem service of global importance.

The lomas are ecosystems that have had a close relationship with cities and / or settlements, through its history, although it has not been given importance, despite being a source of natural and cultural heritage, proof of this are the numerous evidences found as pre-Columbian ceramics and even lithic tools, (stone tips) that the ancient Peruvians used.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

The Peruvian coast or Chala natural region, is characterized by being a desert area, however, despite the climatic conditions typical of a desert, in this region occurs a singular natural event in the world, due to the dynamics of the Current of the Humboldt, the trade winds and the orography of the Peruvian coast, these conditions form an exceptional ecological zone in the winter, like "green islands" in the middle of immense sands known as lomas. Las lomas are very special plant formations with unique ecosystems in the world and is developed mainly in the coast of Peru (mostly) and part of Chile (to a lesser extent).

They are distributed from Campana and Cabezón hills in Trujillo, Peru to Coquimbo in Chile, with a high number of endemic species. Within this ecosystem, we have the Lomas de Atiquipa, located on the southern coast of Peru, approximately 600km south of Lima, between 74°18'55 '' - 74°24'49 '' West Longitude and 15°42'42 '' - 15°50'00 '' of Latitude Sur, in the district of Atiquipa, province of Caravelí, department of Arequipa, with an estimated area of 22,000 ha, considered to be the largest in South America. At present, approximately 2 190 ha of forest are conserved, unfortunately due to overgrazing and logging, the hills have been reduced by 90%. This has as a consequence the degradation of the soil, the reduction of the interception of mists by the vegetation and the scarce availability of water. In 2011, the Atiquipa Lomas were declared as a Private Conservation Area, with the aim of conserving a representative sample of the ecosystem of lomas, thickets and natural pastures.

Ecosystem benefits provided by the ridges is the availability of water for various uses, by capturing mist also acting as an important reservoir of germplasm crops such as potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, sweet potato, canna and papaya, as well as species with fodder and medicinal value such as Caesalpinia spinosa, Nasa urens, among others and ecological tourism in the middle of the desert, diversity of species, archaeological remains, orchards and fields of culture (Victoria Espinoza M.).

This ecosystem has a great capacity to absorb carbon year after year of the atmosphere, as well as having a high endemism of its flora and fauna.

Lomas vegetation develops on the slopes facing the sea, favoring the condensation of mists brought by winds from the south and southwest. These slopes can start almost at sea level and reach up to 1,000 meters above sea level, with variations at the local level. Above 1 000 m.a.s.l. the influence of the fog’s ceases, due to the phenomenon of thermal inversion, there being no winter vegetation there.

During the winter the relative humidity is above 80%, reaching 100%, which produces the precipitation of water in the form of fine rain, known as garúa or camanchaca. The precipitations are between 40 and 1 00 mm / year, amount significantly superior to the desert that surrounds the hills.

On the slopes between 400 and 600 meters above sea level, fogs are more frequent and precipitation can reach up to 400 mm. When there are rocky walls and arboreal vegetation, the mists are condensed more, by the interception effect, and at the foot of the trees the precipitation can reach 500 mm. This allows the development of denser vegetation and the formation of springs or eyes of water, and even small streams, as in the lomas of Atiquipa (Chala).

The lomas provide an ecosystem service of great importance to the world; considering that only in our country, according to the ecological maps based on the Holdridge system, this ecosystem represents 0.64% of the Peruvian territory, 738,000.00 hectares that each year capture carbon from the atmosphere.

The lomas ecosystems are natural banks of germplasm, genetic diversity of wild species in various reproductive forms (seeds, cuttings, tubers, etc.). This ecosystem includes plant genetic resources that serve as biological basis of food security and, directly or indirectly support the livelihoods of all inhabitants of the earth, because they are based on human and animal feed, for production of fibers, clothing, housing and energy.

The lomas are fragile ecosystems of high conservation value and are vulnerable as a result of the anthropogenic activities that develop in them or in their environment, which threaten and put at risk the ecosystem services they provide.

Criterion (ix): The determining factors in the lomas formation include:

a.  The Humboldt Current: It is an ocean current originated by the rise of very cold, deep waters to the surface of the sea which occurs on the western coasts of South America and goes in a south-north direction. This current determines the climate of the Peruvian coast, because it limits evaporation, and thereby provides atmospheric stability.

b.  The Current of El Niño: It is a warm marine current characteristic of the South American Pacific that circulates from Ecuador to Peru, favors the appearance of heavy rains on the north coast due to the constant evaporation of warm waters. This current can extend to the south of the country, generating climatic changes in the coast "El Niño phenomenon".

c.  The Andes: comprises the succession of mountains longitudinally along the country (serves as a natural barrier) reaching the division of the two main bodies of tropical air, preventing entry of moist air from the Atlantic to Pacific, which causes low rainfall on the western side.

d.  The anticyclone of the South Pacific: comprises a mass of high air pressure, winds flowing from south to north by collecting the moisture evaporates from the sea and rises, remaining detained by the sea surface and then spreading along the coastline.

The peculiarity generated by the interaction of these factors defines the climate in the Peruvian coast as evenly tempered with regular training benches stratus below 1000 meters during the winter months.

In sectors of the topographically low flat coast layer stratus dissipates inwardly over wide areas with little biological impact, in contrast to the places with steep slopes such mists are foggy areas (concentrated against the slopes), so that condensation of water mist allows development of plant, tree vegetation collect the condensed moisture in the leaves and stems of plants and gravity concentrates on the basis of these provide a substantial amount of water allowing its growth, which grasses and herbaceous plants that line the surface in the coastal desert arise. These fog zones take the name of hills formation.

Coastal hills are affected by the annual climatic variations and especially by the El Niño event, which stimulates brief periods of heavy rains and relatively high temperatures; This moisture stimulates the massive germination of seeds, which results in massive flowering events in the vegetation of the lomas.

The coastal lomas system of Peru includes phytogeographic units characterized by a high number of genera and endemic species, among which are those belonging to the genera Mathewsia, Palaua, Weberbauerella, Domeykoa and Nolana among others (Ferreyra, 1986). Probably as a consequence of geographic isolation, since the hills are distributed as islands of vegetation separated by hyper-arid habitat (Rundel et al., 1991).

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

The Coastal Lomas System of Peru is part of three protected natural areas two national administration and private administration. The area it represents, the proposed coastal mound system, has an extension of 35,060.16 hectares. The ecosystem becomes green every year in the winter, as long as the aforementioned climatic conditions are met. It maintains the ecosystem services it provides, including: carbon capture, a natural germplasm bank for the genetic diversity of wild species in various reproductive forms.

The system of coastal lomas proposed to be a set of protected natural areas, have all regulations for their conservation and protection, in addition to basic information for proper management, there are threats that may damage the coastal lomas system, but these are fought and / or mitigated by the legal, logistical and planner with counts each of protected natural areas that make the proposed system of coastal lomas, in addition to bear in mind that the coastal lomas are distributed along the Peruvian coast, many of them in process of valuation and recognition for their natural values by the Government and the interest of the civil society, it is pertinent to consider an integration to the lomas system in proposal to contain the largest representation of the whole.

Comparison with other similar properties

The biosphere reserve of El Pinacate and Gran Desierto de Altar, located in Mexico, is a natural world heritage site recognized in 2013, it is characterized by being formed by desert pavements and currents of black and red lavas. To the west, the Great Desert of Altar, identified by having dunes of varied shapes that reach a height of 200 meters, in this desert, there is a great diversity of plants and wild animal species, among which are some specimens of fish of fresh water and the Mexican barrendo, which is an endemic species of antelope that grows only in northwestern Sonora and southwestern Arizona (United States). In total, it hosts more than a thousand species of flora and fauna, which is why it is considered the most biodiverse desert in the world.

Although both goods are located on deserts of extreme aridity. The hills system owes its formation to the interaction of different exceptional natural factors such as the interaction between the foothills of the mountain range on the coast, the winds of the anticyclone of the Pacific and the marine currents (which generates the fog) which become in the constitution of coastal fog zones defined according to their geographical location in hill formations. From the same modom, the high endemism is a character that gives relevance and particularity to the natural ecosystem, reaching around 42% of endemic flora for the lomas system.

The Desert of Lut (Iran), natural world heritage site (2016), is located in the southeast of the country, the desert of Lut ("Dasht-e-Lut") is a humid subtropical zone hit between June and September by winds of great force that transport sediments and cause a wind erosion of colossal proportions. In this site you can see some of the most spectacular wind reliefs formed by massive undulating ridges ("yardangs"), as well as vast deserts of stone and a field of dunes, which together constitute an exceptional example of evolutionary geological processes.

The coastal Lomas system of Peru is similar to the aforementioned lines due to the condition of being located in a desert with hyper-arid characteristics. However, the lomas system understands its relevance as a natural economic value due to its formation as a result of interacting factors and the presence of its exuberant vegetation, also comprising a high degree of endemic species of plants and even specific variation between lomas. Unlike the Lut desert whose relevance comes from its wind reliefs and its composition.