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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

Ecosystem response to climate change in the mountain wetlands

PI:  Juan Castaño (Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira)
U.S. Partner: Jay Martin (The Ohio State University)
Project Dates: September 2013 - April 2019

Hacienda Lisbrán study site                    Project blog

Project Facebook Page                            Video of U.S. partner’s March 2015 visit

Project Overview

Since 2008, Colombia has experienced three extreme climate events that have resulted in droughts and flooding during which more than 400 human lives were lost. During these events, 15 percent of the country was inundated and more than $6 billion in economic losses were sustained. While such national and international impacts of climate change are frequently noted and predicted by large-scale models, the local communities that suffer greatly from these disasters and are ultimately responsible for human welfare lack tools to predict and respond to changes in climate. To better prepare local communities to predict climate impacts and develop responses, this project will develop an early alert system to forecast changes in the ecosystem services of water regulation and biodiversity in the Quebrada Dalí watershed. This upstream watershed, located in the central Andes of Colombia, affects agricultural and urban downstream areas that have already realized climate impacts and can greatly benefit from tools to predict further impacts and plan proper responses to climate changes.

ColombiaPicture 1 Lisbran, located within the Quebrada Dali Watershed, is where the instrumentation will be located. (Photo courtesy Dr. Castaño).

2-65 Mammal Tracking Mammals tracked by the research team in the targeted research site. (Photo courtesy Dr. Castaño).

The long-term goal is to develop a sustainable local ecosystem study site to monitor and model short- and long-term effects of climate change on the ecosystem services provided by Quebrada Dalí watershed. The early warning system to be built will be based on permanent monitoring and adaptive modeling of the effect of climate change on the ecosystem services of water regulation in a watershed in the central Andes and its influence on water supply systems. A critical need for such a system at a local level is evidenced by the fact that many of the prediction models used to determine the effects of climate change on environmental services and society are based on global scale climate data, but they omit biophysical and social influences that determine local responses. As one of the most vulnerable countries to impacts of climate change, Colombia is an excellent location to examine human adaptation to impacts such as severe floods and drought.

Summary of Recent Activities
In 2017, as the end of his original PEER project approached, the PI Dr. Castaño received a competitively awarded PEER Evidence to Action supplement to build on the results of his project and expand its impacts. The goal of the supplement was to improve their field site in the Quebrada Dalí to serve as a living lab for research and environmental education, serving not only scientists and university students but also schoolchildren, scout groups, and community organizations. The specific objectives focused on improving the study site infrastructure by equipping a meeting room and research office, improving walking trails at the site and adding educational signage at interesting view points, and designing teaching units on relevant environmental topics for use with various types of visitors.

Despite serious challenges and delays due to severe floods that hit the area in late 2018, by January 2019 Dr. Castaño reported that almost all the objectives have been achieved. He and his team have equipped a meeting room at the study site with desks, chairs, a projector and screen, and lockers for use by visiting researchers. A research office was also set up for use by scientists and students working at the site. Three walking trails have been cleaned up and equipped with specially designed signs at a total of 16 observation points, educating visitors on features of interest and their relevance to environmental themes:
  • Trail 1 - Mirador de los humedales (Wetland Lookout), 5 observation points
  • Trail 2 - El Duende (The Elf), 5 observation points
  • Trail 3 - El Rio (The River), 6 observations points
The team also created educational units on the topics of risk management, biodiversity, water quality, wetlands conservation, and climate change. They shared them with schoolteachers for their initial feedback, and after improvements were made, the team held five workshops to introduce and evaluate the units. The PI and his group are promoting the Hacienda Lisbrán site through a Web page, and a video and brochure are being prepared. They also plan at least two more workshops at the study site. One will be with the Faculty Council of the Environmental Sciences School of Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira. The PI expects that they will support the use of the study site for academic purposes and perhaps contribute funding to help sustain the site after the current PEER funding ends. 

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