Environment and Nature in the Andes
The Central Andes were the home of the Incas, an ancient civilization who created an enormous empire, larger in area than the Roman empire. Only indigenous peoples of the Himalayas have adapted as well as the native Andeans to high mountain environments. The ancestors of the Incas arrived in the Central Andes as nomadic hunters and gatherers perhaps 15,000 years ago. They began agropastoral lifeways (camelid herding and plant cultivation) around 8,000 years ago. Many of the contemporary human–nature relationships can first be identified as developing during that period.
An essentially treeless grassland – the Ecuadorian paramo, the Peruvian puna, the Bolivian altiplano, and the Argentine salt puna– which is the home of the native herders and sierra farmers – occurs along the upper slopes, plateaus, and tablelands of the Andean mountain chain. Because similar elevations support trees elsewhere in the world, the question is raised: why is the zone essentially treeless today? Is it...
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