, Volume 42, Issue 7, pp 852–863 | Cite as

Climate Change and Water Resources in Arid Mountains: An Example from the Bolivian Andes

  • Sally RangecroftEmail author
  • Stephan Harrison
  • Karen Anderson
  • John Magrath
  • Ana Paola Castel
  • Paula Pacheco


Climate change is projected to have a strongly negative effect on water supplies in the arid mountains of South America, significantly impacting millions of people. As one of the poorest countries in the region, Bolivia is particularly vulnerable to such changes due to its limited capacity to adapt. Water security is threatened further by glacial recession with Bolivian glaciers losing nearly half their ice mass over the past 50 years raising serious water management concerns. This review examines current trends in water availability and glacier melt in the Bolivian Andes, assesses the driving factors of reduced water availability and identifies key gaps in our knowledge of the Andean cryosphere. The lack of research regarding permafrost water sources in the Bolivian Andes is addressed, with focus on the potential contribution to mountain water supplies provided by rock glaciers.


Climate change Water resources Glacier recession Permafrost Rock glaciers 



This research was funded by a Natural Environment Research Council CASE award with Oxfam and Agua Sustentable. The authors would like to thank the Agua Sustentable team in La Paz for their support and help with fieldwork in Bolivia. The authors would also like to thank Helen Jones at Exeter University for drawing the figures. The manuscript was improved by insightful comments from three anonymous reviewers.


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sally Rangecroft
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Stephan Harrison
    • 1
  • Karen Anderson
    • 1
    • 2
  • John Magrath
    • 3
  • Ana Paola Castel
    • 4
  • Paula Pacheco
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Geography, CLESUniversity of ExeterPenrynUK
  2. 2.Environment and Sustainability InstituteUniversity of ExeterCornwallUK
  3. 3.Oxfam GB, Oxfam HouseOxfordUK
  4. 4.Agua SustentableLa PazBolivia

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