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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 - December 2014

 Mongolia Partnership Photo A
The group installing a station in Ayapel to help process digital information in real time via the Internet (Photo courtesy Dr. Cañón)

Project Overview

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

Mongolia Partnership Photo B The group finishing their work on the digital station (Photo courtesy Dr. Cañón)

During the fall and early winter of 2013, Dr. Cañón’s team, including doctoral student Ms. Isabel Hoyos and master’s students Claudia Duque and Juan Pablo Serna, finished their second semester of classes at Universidad de Antioquia. They worked on their models and data analysis and prepared material for posters and presentations. Dr. Cañón presented some partial results from the project at a regional symposium on climate change held November 20-22 at Universidad Mariana in Pasto. While there, he made a site visit to the La Cocha hydrological station in Nariño. Dr. Cañón visited U.S. partner Dr. Francina Dominguez at the University of Arizona in the first week of December to coordinate and plan Ms. Hoyos’ upcoming internship and to discuss current and upcoming collaborative research on their project. Dr. Cañón and Ms. Hoyos made a presentation at the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, which was held December 9-13 in San Francisco, California.

It is expected that Ms. Hoyos will begin her five-month internship at the University of Arizona under Dr. Dominguez in mid-January. While Ms. Hoyos is away, Ms. Duque and Mr. Serna will work on development of the dynamic systems models and spatial data processing back at Universidad de Antioquia, and will start drafting scientific papers based on their research under Dr. Cañón. They will also visit the project’s three hydrological stations to check their instrumentation and to set up community workshops to present their interim results.

The project website ( continues to be updated. It includes information from all the stations, although it still fragmentary. Real time transmission remains problematic due to battery issues in the stations.

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

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