Cycle 1 (2011 Deadline)
Long-term sustainability of water resources and biodiversity under scenarios of climate change in the Napo watershed, Ecuador
PIs: Juan Manuel Guayasamin, Universidad Tecnologica Indoamerica, and Andrea Encalada, Universidad San Francisco de Quito
José Schrekinger gathering data at one of the field sites of the Napo watershed, Ecuador.
US Partner: LeRoy Poff, Colorado State University
Project Dates: June 2012 - May 2015
Some of the most critical challenges faced worldwide are related to the conservation of freshwater ecosystems and their biodiversity, especially under the prospect of rapid climate change. Although most water sources are intertwined with human life, most rivers are within watersheds that have suffered uncontrolled and unplanned anthropogenic disturbances, including pollution, in-stream constructions, invasive species, and extractive uses. Climate change has the potential to magnify the risks that are already present by altering patterns of temperature, precipitation, and runoff, thereby disrupting biological communities and ecosystem processes.
This project will gather physiological, genetic, and environmental data generated by the National Science Foundation-funded EVOTRAC project in Ecuador, which predicts the vulnerability of organisms to rapid climate change, and will combine it with new information to produce a set of recommendations intended to improve the conservation and management practices of aquatic ecosystems in the Napo basin. This effort will represent an important first contribution to the long-term sustainability of water resources and biodiversity in this region. More specifically, in the Napo basin, this project has several major objectives. It will determine and map ecological integrity of streams along an altitudinal gradient, using environmental (water quality and quantity) and biological data generated by the EVOTRAC project. Land use and land cover maps of the Napo watershed will also be developed to help understand the main anthropogenic threats along an altitudinal gradient. This new information will then be applied to identify and determine priority areas within the basin for management and conservation and to develop a conservation portfolio for freshwater ecosystems that includes representation of biodiversity, ecosystems, and ecological processes and their vulnerability to climate change. The research findings and conservation portfolio will be communicated to local communities, governments, NGOs, and the academic community by means of publications in scientific journals, on the Web, and as practical guides and workshops aimed at local communities and a general audience. The ultimate aim will be promotion of new management practices in the Napo basin to advance freshwater ecosystem sustainability.
Summary of Recent Activities
Dr. Encalada, Dr. Guayasamin, and their students continued sampling biological and environmental variables in streams at lower elevations during the first quarter of 2013. Specifically, they focused on streams lying between 100 and 500 meters above sea level (masl), covering the sub-basins of the Coca, Aguarico, and Tiputini rivers. These biological sampling efforts are being complemented by interviews conducted by USFQ undergraduate student María José Troya with residents of towns and cities in the Napo basin, with the aim being to understand and map major water uses and water-related conflicts in the area. Using the biological data generated up to now, these researchers have developed preliminary maps of the potential distribution of frog (Anura), mayfly (Ephemeroptera), and caddisfly (Trichoptera) species. These maps will be improved in the coming months for selected species in the watershed, using both new data and historical records from museums. UTI master’s students Jorge Peralta and María Torres Sánchez have successfully identified aquatic beetle (Coleoptera) taxa to the genus and morphospecies level and are currently working on testing molecular techniques to perform DNA analysis on selected insect groups. USFQ student Edgar Guerrón analyzed invertebrate community composition data along an altitudinal gradient (1700 to 4000 masl) and submitted an abstract that has been accepted for presentation at the annual meeting of the Society for Freshwater Science to be held in Jacksonville, Florida, May 19-23, 2013. Some of the stream water samples collected are being analyzed for nutrient content by the U.S. partner’s lab at the University of Nebraska. Efforts are underway to find a lab that can analyze water samples for heavy metal and hydrocarbons to a very high degree of precision. In the coming months, the PIs and their students will focus on finishing up on water quality characterization efforts. They will also continue their work to identify aquatic invertebrate species, with molecular techniques to be added to the analytical process in the spring of 2013.
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