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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER)
Cycle 4 (2015 Deadline)

Water resources response on glacier dynamics in Central Asia transboundary river basins

PI: Tamara Tuzova (, EnConsult and Institute of Water Problems and Hydro Power of the National Academy of Sciences of Kyrgyzstan
Project Dates: December 2015 - November 2018

Project Overview

Water is both a crucial limiting resource and a central unifying element in coupled human-natural systems, particularly in arid regions. The rivers of Central Asia originate in high mountains that support an syncretistic civilization and vibrant ecosystems, as well as agricultural and economic activity of increasing regional and global importance. The water resources system in Central Asia is under stress due to multiple interrelated drivers of change. The water supply from seasonal snow and glacial melt is and will be impacted by climate change, and water demands will continue to increase with population growth and land use change. This project will deliver important information about long-term climate and glacier-water resources changes in a major transboundary river basin of Central Asia, specifically the Amu Darya River basin and its tributarities in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. New advanced data on Central Asia deglaciation during the Holocene based on the glacial moraine physical stratigraphy and isotope-chemistry analyses (14С, 234U/238U, 16О/18О) are critical, particularly for the poorly studied transboundary river basins, to understand the past and possible future scenarios of deglaciation and water resources change under global and regional climate change impacts. The new data to be obtained in the project will enrich the research program being carried out by the U.S. Government-supported partner and colleagues in their project on spatial-temporal changes in climate and glacier water resources in Central Asia. By comparing the data to be collected in this project with existing paleoclimate records from ice cores in the Altai, Tien Shan, Pamir, Kunlun, Tibet, and the Himalayas, the researchers will gain better understanding of Asian climate variability during the Holocene. This will reveal the dynamics in space and time of major historical climatic events and periods that have occurred in Asia. Understanding the mechanisms and rate of past climate and glacier variability in Asia is crucial to developing new methods for glacier-water resources prediction, vulnerability metrics, and adaptation strategies.

Specific project tasks include analyzing meteorological and hydrological data sets from the last 50-100 years and integrating them with new data on paleoclimate and deglaciation to elucidate water resource variability within the transboundary river basins. Analysis of the modern and Holocene time set data will help predict possible water resource changes in the future and evaluate adaptation options that respond to environment requirements, agricultural and urban demands, ecosystem services, and flood management. The gaps in hydrological measurements and total absence of data following the disintegration of the USSR will be complimented by new research data obtained during the project. The results of the project should help officials in the region take timely measures to adapt to climate change, alleviate its effects, and relieve the international stress caused by the growing deficit of water resources.

Summery of Recent Activities

In the second quarter of 2017, Dr. Tuzova and her team worked closely with the new US partner, Dr. David Watkins, to bring him up to speed on the project and coordinate their work plans. The team also continued with its measurements and conducted uranium isotope measurements of 60 water and ice samples from the catchment basins of the Chon Kyzyl-Su, Barskaun, Ala-Archa (Northern Tien Shan), and Kyzylsu-Obikhingou-Vaksh (Pamir-Alai) rivers, as well as collecting new samples at these locations. Samples have been sent to the recently selected University of Debrecen who received 17 samples of moraine organic matter and 34 samples of moraine soils. For independent quality control, the team also prepared two samples of soils and seven samples of organic matter for analysis in Klaus-Tschira-Archäometrie-Zentrum Institute of CEZ Archäometrie, Mannheim, Germany.

Although the work showed the need for improving the field method of uranium precipitation from water to increase the adsorption percentage, the project team still conducted field training in sample collection and in-situ uranium adsorption from such samples for students of the Tajik National University and the Tajik branch of the Moscow State University, Dushanbe. This training took place in Ziddy Village on June 18-25, 2017 and was organized by seven people; the program included testing a field method for uranium precipitation from water directly onto iron hydroxides, without prior adsorption onto and desorption from activated carbon.

4-454 Water Sampling4-454 Moraine and Ice Sampling
The team conducted a number of field visits to collect water, ice, and moraine samples (photo courtesy of Dr. Tuzova).

The team presented its work at various conferences in the second quarter including the European Commission funded Central Asia Research and Education Network (CAREN) Project’s 2nd Regional Networking Conference themed “Empowering Central Asian Research and Education Communities Trough Global High-Speed Networking” on April 25-26, 2017 in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. T. Tuzova and Z.V. Kobuliyev delivered a presentation on highly qualified personnel training in the field connected to the PEER Project.

The team also used the results of the uranium isotope measurements of water and ice to prepare five papers that will be presented at international conferences between July and September, 2017. In addition to these presentations, the team plans to continue its fieldwork in the glacial zones of the Northern Tien Shan (upper reach of the Issyk-Ata River), Central and Eastern Pamir (upper reach of the Alichur and Muksu rivers and by the Yashilkul Lake) and Pamiro-Alai (Zaalaisky Ridge, Fedchenko Glacier, the Kyzylsu River).

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