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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 - February 2016

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

During July, August, and September of 2015, Dr. Encalada, Dr. Guayasamin, and their colleagues have been focusing on overlapping maps of species with maps of threats to the Napo watershed in order to propose potential areas for conservation, remediation and mitigation. Different scenarios are still being explored, and the research team expects to finish their analysis by November 2015. Work on their conservation portfolio for freshwater ecosystems has been ongoing as well. The team will propose different   projects based on the findings of the overlay maps and the findings will be shared with local and national authorities of Ecuador and with the NGOs that are working in the Napo area. During this past quarter the team finalized the  draft version of Water Biomonitoring Manual for the Andean-Amazonian streams manual, and as a result of the collaborative work with their colleague Dr. Carlos Mena (also a PEER researcher) who is working on the final layout and editing of the manual, the book should be ready for publishing by the end of November.  The research team has been conducting outreach activities as well. A community workshop entitled “EVALUACIÓN DE LA CALIDAD DEL AGUA Y LA INTEGRIDAD ECOLÓGICA DE RIACHUELOS DE LA CUENCA DEL NAPO” was attended by sixty participants from the Andean-Amazon communities.  At the workshop, the team presented the new Bio-monitoring Manual developed for the Andean-Amazon area; the students were taught how to carry out the bio-monitoring activities including obtaining data in a river near the city of Tena, and how to conduct laboratory work to identify the obtained aquatic invertebrates, as well as  how to  process environmental data. The final research results will be presented to governmental representatives as well as other water managers from the Napo basin at a workshop which is expected to take place in January 2016. During the workshop the team anticipates to present their book, as well as the final version of the conservation portfolio.