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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 1 (2011 Deadline)

Impacts of climate change on tropical wetlands: tracking the evolution of two Andean lakes and a floodplain cienaga in Columbia  

PI: Julio Eduardo Cañón Barriga, Universidad de Antioquia
US Partner: Francina Dominguez, University of Arizona
Project Dates: May 2012 - May 2015

Project Overview

Students and team members discuss the impact of climate change on natural reservoirs in Columbia (Spanish)

Communities in tropical regions along the Andean Cordillera in South America face an uncertain future, as mountain lakes and snow peaks exhibit receding trends and strong fluctuations associated with climatic drivers (i.e., climate change and El Niño) and local human activities. Such fluctuations are apparent in Colombia, where these changes will have direct impact on strategic ecosystems such as the Orinoco and Amazon basins and the highly populated Cauca and Magdalena River basins. Therefore, understanding how these water systems evolve in the near future is of critical importance for the communities that depend on them for their survival.
This project aims to develop long-term monitoring of the evolution of three natural water bodies: Colombia´s two main Andean lakes (Tota and Cocha) and the floodplain wetland of Ayapel. These natural reservoirs not only represent the accumulated effect of hydrological processes in their respective basins but also serve as examples of highly intervened environments from which several rural and urban communities derive their water resources and develop their economic activities. This project will gather data about the areas of interest by contacting local, national, and international agencies for technical reports, census information, hydrologic databases, and remote sensing imagery. The information gathered, as well as gauges installed at the lakes and visits to record geographical, geophysical, and socio-economic data, will be used to build models that describe the evolution of these bodies of water. The results of these studies will be available through technical and scientific papers as well as a website to be designed to offer easy access to geographically integrated and updated information useful for all interested parties locally and worldwide. The project should facilitate the development of improved models to determine the lake stage as a function of climate drivers and human uses to serve as a basis for future decision support for the communities involved.

Summary of Recent Activities

1-31 Team Assembles Station

The group finishing their work on the digital station (Photo courtesy Dr. Cañón)
In late July, Dr. Cañón was invited to present his project at USAID headquarters in Washington, DC. The project was well received and he followed up with a trip to visit his partner, Dr. Dominguez, at the University of Arizona to discuss the implications of the data collected as well as ways to move forward on utilizing and presenting that data to the local and scientific community.

During this period, Dr. Cañón and his team also organized and presented three workshops. The first, PEER 31 Workshop in Ayapel, took place over a three day period starting on September 15 and included 50 participants from the academic community and local community members. The second, Primer Simposio Internacional de Humedales (First Symposium on Wetlands), took place the first three days of October and also included 50 participants. In it, Dr. Cañón described the research advances in Tota on wetlands and demonstrated the model results to community members and students. Taller de Herramientas institucionales para la gestion del riesgo de desastres en los servicios public de acueducto, alcantarillado y aseo (The Workshop on Institutional Tools for Risk Management in Public Water Supply Systems) was organized by multiple governmental organizations including the Ministry of Environment in Pasto, Narino. In this workshop on September 9, team member Claudia Lorena Duque gave a presentation on research advances in Cocha to roughly 270 stakeholders, government staff, and community workers.

In the last quarter of 2014, Dr. Cañón plans to finish his models and the analysis of future scenarios for the three bodies of water. New workshops will be given to the communities surrounding the studied areas to share and disseminate the importance and findings of their studies. Also, the website will be improved and more information uploaded as another method of sharing the data gained from this project.

The project website ( continues to be updated. It includes information from all the stations, although it still fragmentary.

Article on project from Universidad de Antioquia newsletter Ingeniemos, August 2012

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