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The Lost Woodlands of Ancient NascaA Case-study in Ecological and Cultural Collapse$
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David Beresford-Jones

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780197264768

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: January 2013

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197264768.001.0001

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The Huarango in the Desert Riparian and Agricultural Ecosystem

The Huarango in the Desert Riparian and Agricultural Ecosystem

(p.155) 8. The Huarango in the Desert Riparian and Agricultural Ecosystem
The Lost Woodlands of Ancient Nasca

David Beresford-Jones

British Academy

This chapter considers the subtler role of Prosopis in underpinning a fragile desert ecology. It is perhaps difficult to exaggerate the dominance of this genus within its desert environments, especially on the coast of Peru, where rather few tree species occur naturally. It is shown that no other desert tree has as pervasive an influence upon the soil's physical, chemical, biological, and moisture properties; the sub-canopy microclimate; the neighbouring vegetation; and the wildlife and insect populations. The huarango integrates diverse parts of the desert ecosystem. In modifying the environmental extremes characteristic of deserts, especially one as arid as the Peruvian south coast, Prosopis makes what would otherwise be inhospitable lands habitable for other species, including humankind. In other words, if we are to lay bare the ecological consequences of deforestation on the south coast, we need to understand why, here, the huarango is what ecologists term a ‘keystone species’.

Keywords:   Prosopis, desert ecology, deforestation, Peru, huarango, keystone species

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