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[LIMA] Peru's glaciers are melting at an increasing rate due to global warming, say scientists, who warn that by 2015 almost all of its glaciers will have disappeared.

Speaking last week at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Francisco, United States, glaciologist Lonnie Thompson said Peru's Qori Kalis glacier is retreating faster than at any other time in at least 5,000 years. He predicts it will disappear within five years.

Peru is home to 70 per cent of the world's glaciers; their disappearance will create problems for local communities.

Immediate threats include flooding caused by the melting glaciers and accompanying landslides, while longer term changes in water supply could lead to loss of crops and livestock.

Qori Kalis is located in the Cusco region of southeast Peru, and is one of many glaciers retreating on the Quelccaya Ice Cap, the largest body of ice in the tropics.

Thompson, from Ohio University in the United States, warned of the effect that glacial retreat will have on poor people. "Millions of people are going to have to adapt to these changes, many of which will occur in some of the poorest regions of the globe," he said.

Marco Zapata, head of the Institute of Natural Resources glaciology unit, told local media last week that Peru has lost 22 per cent of its glaciers since the 1970s.

"Peru is one of the most affected countries in the world due to global warming," he said, adding that tropical mountain ranges — which endure longer hours of sunshine and hence higher temperatures — are especially vulnerable to global warming.

Zapata said that glaciers above 5,500 metres — which account for almost all of Peru's glaciers — will be gone by 2015.

According to a report released last week by Peru's Management of Risks from Natural Disasters project, Coropuna ice cap in southern Peru has retreated by about 54 per cent in the last 48 years.

The Pastoruri ice cap of the Cordillera Blanca in north Peru shrank by almost 40 per cent between 1995 and 2005.