Vulnerability ofthe Region

Vulnerability in the Region is aggravated because of the location of human activities in some places of great risk, natural resources subject to excessive pressure of poverty, lack of environmental management policies, excessive centralization, little agricultural technology, and lack of education of the population to prevent and face risks (OAS 1993).

Main causes of vulnerability in the region are the fast and un-regulated urbanization, rural and urban poverty, deterioration of natural resources, inefficient public policies, and the delays and mistakes in infrastructure investments. In the region, there is little investment concerning mitigation of natural hazards and the response is mainly under emergency situations.

Vulnerability of natural forests, mountain ecosystems and agriculture is reflected in the following aspects (WMO 2007):

• Deforestation of rainy tropical forests is altering the hydrological cycle in the region causing a shortage in precipitation as a consequence of reduced évapotranspiration. ttese deforested areas have lost all protection to face climate variability, making them more vulnerable to floods and soil degradation.

• In the subtropical forests of the semi-arid regions, where precipitation is expected to be reduced, the loss of vegetative cover is generating desertification.

• tte vegetation in the prairie ecosystems is highly dependent on precipitation. Overgrazing and inadequate management practices are generating high desertification areas.

tte mountain ecosystems play an important role in South America because:

• ttey constitute places with considerable human settlements (Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador Peru and the Highlands of Chile)

• ttey perform an hydrological regulating function and at the same time the al-titudinal gradient formed by the Andes mountains is a source of rich biodiversity.

• At present the mountains are threatened by global warming which is altering the runoff regimens of the rivers, making the irrigated areas vulnerable to the occurrence of droughts (Peru, Bolivia, ChileyArgentina).

Most of the agricultural lands is going through a process of degradation due to inappropriate management and use. Non-irrigated agricultural land depends on precipitation which makes them vulnerable to seasonal to inter-annual variations of precipitation.

Inappropriate management of soils has led to a stage where agricultural activities are taking place in fragile areas that are not suitable for such practices, ttis has resulted in a situation in which almost all the countries have a generalized and irreversible erosion in terms of agricultural productivity, tte irrigation systems, not efficient enough, are responsible for the salinization of the river waters, sedimentation of the river beds and reservoirs. All these practices are increasing the vulnerability of agriculture.

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