Peru is one of the ten most biologically diverse countries of the world. It’s tropical location, its complex orography, the influence of cold and warm marine currents, a complex continental margin, plus marked interannual climatic variations created by ENSO events, have moulded a diverse array of climatic zones and terrestrial and marine environments. This allows the existence of a wide variety of ecosystems. A total of 40 distinct natural ecosystems grouped into five broad categories (inland water bodies, mountain ecosystems, forests, coastal and marine ecosystems, and cavern ecosystems) have been identified in Peru [1].

This high diversity of ecosystems has favoured a high species diversity. The so-far known flora of Peru comprises 19,174 species of vascular plants. The known vertebrate fauna comprises 5,738 species, including 2,231 fish (1,141 freshwater, 1,090 marine) species, 622 amphibians, 469 reptiles, 1,857 birds, and 559 mammals [2], [3]. Although they have not been fully inventoried yet, estimates indicate that some 330 amphibian, 137 reptile, 106 bird, 81 mammal, 70 freshwater fish, and 7,590 vascular plant species are endemic to Peruvian ecosystems [4]. Peru’s agro biodiversity is also among the richest in the world, being the centre of origin of several crop plant species.

Many zones and particular ecosystems of the country are exceptionally or uniquely biodiverse. The Peruvian Andes are part of the Tropical Andes Biodiversity Hotspot, the most diverse of the 36 hotspots of the world [5], [6]. This hotspot harbours some 30,000 species of vascular plants and an enormous diversity of amphibian, bird, reptile, and mammal species (many of which are endemic), in addition to an exceptional cultural diversity, being home to more than 40 Indigenous peoples. The Tropical Andes is the world leader in plant endemism (at least 50% of the species are endemic) and is also the world’s most diverse region for amphibians, birds, and mammals, and the second most diverse for reptiles. The Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF) [7] has identified 155 Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) in Peru, which cover about 17% of the country’s territory. KBAs are sites of global significance for biodiversity conservation and require priority protection due the vulnerability and uniqueness of the animal and plant populations that reside in them [8], [9], [10]. The Peruvian Pacific is among the richest marine and coastal ecosystems of the world and the sea off the coast is highly productive in fishery resources. The Tropical Pacific Sea of Peru is regarded as a global Hope Spot, a unique area that provides refuge to or is used as breeding and nursing grounds by many threatened or even seriously threatened species [11]. Hope Spots are special places that have been scientifically identified as critical to the health of the ocean [12].

Several Peruvian ecosystems are disappearing or being converted to other land uses, fragmented, or degraded. The most threatened or vulnerable ecosystems include glaciers, the yunga upper-mountain tropical rainforests, coastal hills, the páramos of northern Peru, the Meso-Andean relict forests, as well as the seasonally dry forests.

Although data are still insufficient to assess with certainty the extent of species loss, a total of 658 plant (as of 2006) and 366 vertebrate (as of 2014) species have been identified as vulnerable or threatened of extinction in Peru [2], [13], [14].


Peru’s impressive economic development of the last 20 years has been grounded on the exploitation of its vast, diverse wealth of natural resources, putting enormous and not sufficiently mitigated pressures on its biodiversity and ecosystems. Major pressures include mismanagement and overexploitation of natural resources; pollution by solid waste, hazardous waste, and wastewater; overfishing; expansion of the agricultural frontier, and others [2], [3].

Forest ecosystems are being adversely affected by deforestation for land use change (conversion to agricultural and livestock ranching use), gold mining, oil and gas prospection and exploitation activities, logging for fuelwood and charcoal production, road construction, and others. Gold mining, in particular, is a growing concern. Most gold mining in the Amazon forests (in Peru, Brazil, Colombia, and Suriname) is carried out in small-scale, artisanal, clandestine operations. While each operation causes small-scale deforestation, their aggregate impact is becoming significant. Perhaps more important is the ensuing pollution of soil and river waters with arsenic, cyanide, and mercury which can spread out over long distances, as well as the long-lasting impact on soil which can impede forest regeneration or make it very slow [15], [16], [17].

Rivers are threatened by overfishing, particularly in the Amazon region; those in the Pacific basin are exposed to many pollutant sources; those in the Amazon region are severely impacted by pollution from oil leaks and mercury from mining activities, as well as by the construction of hydroelectric power plants. Main threats on lakes include pollution by wastewater, solid waste, and waste from mining activities.

Major pressures on coastal and marine ecosystems [18] stem from the increasing concentration of cities, industry, and population along the Peruvian coast. This leads to over-exploitation of marine resources and pollution of marine and inland waters; warming of sea water driven by climate change is another major threat. The coverage of mangrove swamps decreased from 3,606 ha in 1996 to 3,292 ha in 2016 [19]. Peru’s fishery catch, including the main product anchovy, has been declining since 2003. Other pressures on marine ecosystems include the introduction of exotic species, as well as by-catch and illegal (undeclared and unregulated) fishing using unsustainable fishing methods.

Mountain ecosystems are affected by mining, intensive agriculture, road construction, overgrazing, hunting, and logging. Major threats on arid and semi-arid ecosystems include mining and agricultural activities, overgrazing, and overexploitation of shrubs for fuelwood. The coastal desert is being severely affected by urban development.

Climate change is expected to affect the composition and functioning of most or all the ecosystems. Rising temperatures have already triggered the retreat and loss of glaciers, which lost 54% of their volume from 1962 to 2016 [2]. Glaciers are perhaps the most threatened Peruvian ecosystem.

A major threat to Peru’s fauna is the growing illicit wildlife trade [20]. Approximately 13,033 live animals were seized between 2009 and 2012, and about 4,000 specimens in 2014 alone. The most intensely trafficked species include reptiles (boas, iguanas, lizards, and turtles) and amphibians (e.g., the Lake Titicaca’s giant frog, Telmatobius sp.). The illegal nature of wildlife trafficking, the diversity of species involved, and their diverse provenance make it difficult to pinpoint the geographical areas where specimens are most heavily extracted.


Key policies and governance approach

The Government of Peru ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in 1996. A number of efforts to fulfil its obligations to the convention and develop the regulatory and management framework for protecting and sustainably using the country’s enormous biodiversity have been undertaken since then.

The main policy mechanisms include, first, the 1993 Constitution of Peru, which recognized the country’s natural resources and ecosystem diversity as part of its national heritage. The 1997 Law on the Conservation and Sustainable Use of Biological Diversity [21] governs the conservation of biological diversity and sustainable use of its components and mandates the relevant sectoral ministries (agriculture, education, health, transport, fisheries, among others) to mainstream biological diversity in their sectoral programmes. The National Commission on Biological Diversity was established in 2009 to bring together the relevant government agencies, NGOs, universities, international organizations, and national experts to monitor the implementation of the obligations to the CBD and related agreements (Ramsar, CITES, CMS) and the design, updating, and implementation of the National Biodiversity Strategy.

A first National Biodiversity Strategy [22] was adopted in 2001 and the Law on the Protection of Access to Peruvian Biological Diversity and the Collective Knowledge of Indigenous Peoples [23] was passed in 2004. An updated National Biodiversity Strategy 2021 and Action Plan 2014-2018 [24] was adopted in 2014. The priorities set by the National Biodiversity Strategy are mainstreamed in national planning and policy instruments such as the Bicentennial Plan “Peru 2021[25], and a financial mobilization strategy is currently under development.

The UN-FAO Agreement on Port State Measures, a legally binding international treaty aimed to prevent, discourage, and eliminate illegal (unreported and unregulated) fishing was adopted in 2017.

The main mechanism for conserving biodiversity in Peru has been the creation of protected areas. The first protected area was decreed in 1961 and several more have been established since then, particularly during the last 20 years. The National Protected Areas Service (SERNANP) was created in 2008 to manage the National System of Areas Protected by the Peruvian government (SINANPE). As of 2019 [26], the SINANPE included a total of 75 protected areas encompassing 19,041,607 ha (14.5%) of the terrestrial portion of Peru’s territory and 6,643,122 ha (7.76%) of its marine portion. There are 180 additional areas, covering 3,969,768 ha, that are protected by local governments or private sector entities. Thus, the total terrestrial area currently under protection amounts to 23,011,375 ha or 17.9% of the country’s territory. Peru also contains seven UNESCO biosphere reserves: Huasacarán, Manu, Noroeste Amotapes-Manglares, Oxapampa-Ashaninka-Yanesha, Gran Pajatén, Bosques de neblina-Selva central, and Avirieri-Vraem.

The Ministry of the Environment has also been implementing numerous plans and projects for the conservation of priority threatened species such as sharks, condor, marine turtle, primates, etc. [27]



Peru has made significant progress particularly on improving the knowledge of the country's biodiversity and its conservation [2], [3]. Knowledge on Peru’s biodiversity was very limited and fragmented until recently. As part of the country’s obligations to the CBD, specific efforts to locate, compile, systematize, and analyse the available relevant data and information were carried out during the 2014–2018 period. Significant progress has also been made regarding Aichi Target 11 (“…by 2020, at least 17% of terrestrial and inland water, and 10% of coastal and marine areas…are conserved through systems of protected areas”). The areas protected by the Peruvian state (SINANPE) now reach a terrestrial coverage of 17.9%, in addition to 3.31% included in Ramsar sites located outside of protected areas. In fact, two particularly vulnerable Peruvian ecosystems, the tropical forest of the Pacific basin and the humid savannah with palm trees, are entirely included in protected areas.

Despite this progress, important challenges remain. The coverage of SINANPE is still limited, leaving several biodiversity-important sites and vulnerable ecosystems out. Only a small fraction of key vulnerable ecosystems such as the coastal hills (2,552 ha, less than 1% of their extent), the páramos of northern Peru (7,000 ha, less than 10% of their extent), and the Meso-Andean relict forests (275 ha, about 1%) are included in existent protected areas, and seasonally dry forests are not yet included. Only 26 of the 155 Key Biodiversity Areas of Peru are fully covered by protected areas, 48 are partially covered, and the remaining 81 are entirely outside of the existent protected areas [7]. Only a small fraction of the highly valuable Peruvian coasts and seas are currently protected; globally important areas, such as the Hope Spot Tropical Pacific Seas of Peru, remain unprotected and subject to significant anthropogenic pressures.


Goals and Ambitions

Peru’s latest National Environmental Policy [28] envisions that, by 2030, the country’s biological diversity has been recovered by improving the conservation, valuation, and use of the services supplied by the country's species and genetic resources, reducing their vulnerability, and ensuring their sustainable use and the provision of their multiple services. Such vision would be attained through two main approaches: Increasing the extent of protected and conservation areas (marine and terrestrial ecosystems) and promoting the governance and sustainable management of biodiversity (multilevel and multi-stakeholder), with two Priority Objectives: OP1 Improving the conservation of species and genetic diversity and OP 2 Reducing deforestation and ecosystem degradation.

The Government of Peru also aims to have 10% of the country’s coastal and marine zones under protection by 2030. This would be mainly achieved through the establishment of the Dorsal de Nazca and the Mar Tropical de Grau national reserves. There is also the ambition of turning the SINANPE into a financially self-sustainable entity based on income generated from the environmental goods and services supplied by protected areas.


The main mechanism for conserving biodiversity in Peru has been the creation of protected areas, and significant progress has been made on this regard. Continuing and expanding on such efforts seems a natural way forward, as expressed by the National Environmental Policy’s intention of increasing the extent of protected and conservation areas (marine and terrestrial ecosystems), and the Government of Peru’s aim to have 10% of the country’s coastal and marine zones under protection through the establishment of the Dorsal de Nazca and the Mar Tropical de Grau national reserves. This should be carefully targeted so to include ecosystems that are currently under-represented or absent from the existent protected areas.

However, this does not fully address the more complex factors underlying forest and biodiversity loss, including the expansion of the agricultural frontier, mining and oil and gas operations, and soil and water pollution. 


[1] Ministerio del Ambiente 2019. Mapa Nacional de Ecosistemas del Perú.

[2] Ministerio del Ambiente 2019. La Biodiversidad en Cifras.

[3] Sixth National Report for the Convention on Biological Diversity

[4] INEI 2019. Anuario de Estadísticas Ambientales.

[5] Myers, N., Mittermeier, R.A., Mittermeier, C.G., da Fonseca, G.A.B., Kent, J. 2000. Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403: 853-868

[6] Tropical Andes

[7] KEY BIODIVERSITY AREAS OF PERU Retrieved October 2021

[8] Langhammer PF, Bakarr MI, Bennun LA, Brooks TM, Clay RP, et al. (2007) Identification and gap analysis of Key Biodiversity Areas: targets for comprehensive protected area systems. IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas Best Practice Protected Area Guidelines Series No. 15. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

[9] Langhammer, P., Butchart, S. H. M. and Brooks, T. M. (2018). Key Biodiversity Areas. Encyclopedia of the Anthropocene.

[10] Quispe-Melgar, H.R., Sevillano-Ríos, C.S., Navarro Romo, W.C., Ames-Martínez, F.N., Camel, V., Fjeldsa, J., Kessler, M. 2020. The Central Andes of Peru: a key area for the conservation of Polylepis forest biodiversity. Journal of Ornithology 161:217-228

[11] Tropical Pacific Sea of Peru Hope Spot. Retrieved October 2021

[12] Mission Blue – Sylvia Earle Alliance. Hope Spots. Retrieved October 2021

[13] Decreto Supremo No 004-2014-MINAGRI que aprueba la actualización de la lista de clasificación y categorización de las especies amenazadas de fauna silvestre legalmente protegidas.

[14] Decreto Supremo N° 043-2006-AG.- Aprueban categorización de especies amenazadas de flora silvestre

[15] Asner, G.P., Llactayob, W., Tupayachia, R., Ráez Luna, E. 2013. Elevated rates of gold mining in the Amazon revealed through high-resolution monitoring. PNAS 110: 18454–18459

[16] Álvarez-Berríos, N.L., Aide, T.M. 2015 Global demand for gold is another threat for tropical forests. Environ. Res. Lett. 10 014006

[17] Álvarez-Berrios, N., L’Roe, J., Naughton-Treves, L. 2021. Does formalizing artisanal gold mining mitigate environmental impacts? Deforestation evidence from the Peruvian Amazon. Environ. Res. Lett. 16 064052

[18] OECD/Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean 2018. Environmental Performance Reviews: Peru 2017. OECD, Paris

[19] Global Mangrove Watch. Retrieved October 2021

[20] Daly, N. 2021. Notorious wildlife market, largest in Peruvian Amazon, back in business after pandemic hiatus. National Geographic

[21] Ley sobre la conservación y aprovechamiento sostenible de la diversidad biológica Ley N° 26839

[22] Ministerio del Ambiente. 2001. Estrategia Nacional sobre Diversidad Biológica

[23] Ministerio del Ambiente. 2004. Ley de protección al acceso a la diversidad biológica peruana y los conocimientos colectivos de los pueblos indígenas.

[24] Ministerio del Ambiente. 2014. Estrategia Nacional de Diversidad Biológica al 2021 – Plan de Acción 2014-2018

[25] CEPLAN 2011. Plan Bicentenario: El Perú hacia el 2021.

[26] SERNANP – SINANPE. Áreas Naturales Protegidas de Administración Nacional con Categoría Definitiva. Retrieved October 2021

[27] Ministerio del Ambiente 2021. Informe Nacional sobre el Estado del Ambiente 2019.

[28] Ministerio del Ambiente 2021. Política Nacional del Ambiente al 2030.