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Book Chapter

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Publication Title

Plants and People: Choices and Diversity Through Time


The Lake Titicaca basin has long been recognised as an area of crop diversity in the Andes of South America (Beck and García 1991; Cardenas 1989; La Barre 1947; Weberbauer 1945). People began to farm this region as early as 1500 BCE and communities of indigenous Aymara and Quechua subsistence farmers continue today. The lake is located in the altiplano, a high (3500–4000 m asl) plain that extends between 15° and 22° S between the eastern and western Andean mountain ranges (Allmendinger et al. 1997; Clapperton 1993). The altiplano is one of the driest and coldest inhabited zones of the Andes with an annual rainfall of approximately 200–800 mm per year (Vuille et al. 2000) and a mean annual temperature of between 7° C–10° C (Montes de Oca 1995). The Lake Titicaca basin, however, is an oasis within the altiplano. The immense body of water (approximately 8562 km2) absorbs solar radiation making the water temperature warmer (10–14° C) than the surrounding land and air (Wirrmann 1992). This radiation of warmth generates ‘thermal effects’ (Boulange and Aquize 1981) that create warmer yearly temperatures and more rainfall. This temperate micro-climate supports very productive agricultural systems around the lake (Vacher et al. 1992).


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