Rock Glaciers and Climate Change in the Bolivian Andes

Mapping new water resources

Publication date: 27 April 2015
Author: Dr. Sally Rangecroft, University of Exeter

Climate change is affecting glaciers worldwide, and the vulnerability and sensitivity of glaciers in the Bolivian Andes is a warning indicator for mountain regions in other areas. Reduced water security is projected for the Bolivian Andes due to an expected increase in demand and a decline in the supply of water. In turn, this will have an impact on food security, power generation and livelihoods. Rock glaciers are protected under rock formations and can sometimes play an important role in long-term water storage. They should be factored into water management and climate change adaptation strategies.

This report describes research to create the first rock glacier inventory for Bolivia, and highlights the need to prioritize the preservation of areas where rock glaciers are located in the interests of water security for vulnerable populations. The inventory could also be used to protect rock glaciers from the effects of mining activity, and the report suggests that legislation should be encouraged in Bolivia to guarantee the protection of glaciers, along with the conservation and restoration of wetlands and other ecosystems crucial to water storage and supply and ultimately, to the achievement of the human right to water.