The section of the Andes in the study included a significant five country stretch taking in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, accounting for about half all glaciers in the 4,300-mile chain that's home to the majestic condor - popularized in the Simon & Garfunkel version of El Condor Pasa (the condor goes by).
The scientists led by Antoine Rabatel from the Laboratory for Glaciology and Environmental Geophysics in Grenoble, France, found that glacial mass has shrunk by 30-to-50 percent since the 1970s, The Guardian reports. The team blamed an average temperature rise of 0.7 degrees celsius over the last 70 years.
The shrinking was most pronounced on small glaciers at low altitudes. Those glaciers "could disappear in the coming years/decades," the report says.
"This is a serious concern because a large proportion of the population lives in arid regions to the west of the Andes (especially in Peru and Boliva, where the percentage of glaciers is the highest)," Rabatel and his co-authors write. "As a consequence, the supply of water from high altitude glacierized mountain chains is important for agricultural and domestic consumption as well as for hydropower."
Andean glaciers provide drinking water for tens of millions of people, The Guardian notes.