As the UN’s COP 20 climate negotiations in Lima slowly progressed last month, I went on a journey through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, a valley close to Cusco, the capital of the Incan empire of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. I wanted to see how climate change is already affecting the Peruvian Andes. Through images and interviews, this feature shows how researchers are working to evaluate the effects of climate change and help locals who are adapting to them.
My first stop was Moray, an archaeological site that lies about 3,500 metres above sea level. Moray hosts what may have been an agricultural research centre in the age of the Incas. Scientists believe that the area of concentric terraces was used by farmers to experiment with growing different species of wild plants at different heights. In this way, the Incas could work out which plants would grow best at different altitudes and temperatures.
The snow-capped mountain of Chicon in southern Peru can be seen clearly from the hills surrounding Moray. Chicon is in the Vilcabamba mountain range of the Andes that extends about 260 kilometres northwest of the city of Cusco.
Researchers from the National Service of Natural Areas Protected by the State (SERNANP) have observed that the glaciers in the range have lost nearly a quarter of their volume in the past few decades.