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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
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
U.S. Partner: LeRoy Poff, Colorado State University
Project Dates: June 2012 - May 2015

Project Overview

Glass Frog
José Schrekinger gathering data at one of the field sites of the Napo watershed, Ecuador.

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

As this project entered the last quarter of 2014, the PIs reported that they have contributed chapters to the book Manual de Biomonitoreo para Ríos Amazónicos (Water Biomonitoring Manual for the Amazonian Streams), which is now scheduled to be published by early 2015. The book aims to provide easy-to-follow guidelines for water monitoring in the Amazon basin, and they expect that it will have a great impact in water monitoring by local Amazonian communities in Ecuador. A workshop to introduce the manual to stakeholders is being organized in the coming months. Also on the outreach front, in collaboration with Colorado State University (Dr. Kim Hoke) and Harvard University (Dr. Laure O´Connell), the PIs organized a workshop on “High-Throughput Sequencing Data and Analysis,” which took place at Universidad Tecnológica Indoamérica from June 30 to July 3, 2014. The course attracted professionals from Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia (see http://oconnell.fas.harvard.edu/bioinformatics-workshop-quito). On the scientific side, the Ecuadorian researchers and their students are continuing to work on their comprehensive studying classifying ecological diversity and integrity of streams along an altitudinal gradient. This work incorporates biodiversity and hydrological data from samples collected at more than 130 stream sites throughout the basin.