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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

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)

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)

Doctoral student Isabel Hoyos completed her five-month her research internship with Dr. Francina Dominguez at the University of Arizona in late May 2014. She learned about isotopic analysis in hydrology and the WRF climate model, which will be helpful for the development of her dissertation now that she has returned home. Back in Colombia, Dr. Cañón’s master’s students have been processing spatial and temporal data and developing dynamic systems models of the three lakes for the final stage of their projects. Master’s student Carolina Gonzalez Morales attended a one-week short course/workshop on Wetlands and their ecosystem connections in Sogamoso (Boyacá) from March 3 through 7, during which she presented an update on the project to students and community stakeholders from Tota and Sogamoso. Professors Néstor Aguirre and Fabio Vélez and master student Juan Pablo Serna presented a progress update to members of the Ayapel community April 2 through 4.
Dr. Cañón has received a one-year no-cost extension for the project through May 2015 to finish the research with the master’s students, prepare publications on the project’s results, and develop workshops with the communities. During the summer of 2014, Isabel Hoyos will work on a first research article about the project with the PI’s guidance. The master’s students will continue developing the models and will write first drafts of their research articles under his supervision as well. Dr. Cañón and the students will also set up the models for initial testing with focal groups to analyze people’s choices of water usage under different climate change scenarios.

The project website (http://peerlagoscolombia.udea.edu.co/) 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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