Maize migration: Key crop expands to higher altitudes under climate change in the Andes
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionClimate and Development 2015 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17565529.2015.1034234
Climate change is expected to profoundly alter the growing conditions of agricultural crops, potentially causing decline in food production in several parts of the world. A switch from crops and crop varieties currently grown to others that are better adapted to new environmental conditions has been suggested as one possible adaptation strategy. While research has documented the upward migration of wild species linked to recent warming in mountain environments, there has been little empirical research on corresponding shifts in the ranges of cultivated species. This study examines changes in the elevation of maize cultivation on the slopes of Mt. Cotacachi, a volcano located in the Northern Ecuadorian highlands. The results show that during the past two decades, farmers in four communities have expanded maize cultivation an estimated 200–300 m in elevation, linked to their observations of climatic and environmental change. This suggests that in tropical mountain regions like the Andes that exhibit closely stacked agroecological zones, the upward movement of local crops and crop varieties constitutes one feasible locally based adaptive response to changes in growing conditions induced by global warming.