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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 - November 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 neared the end of its third year in early 2015, Dr. Encalada, Dr. Guayasamin, and their colleagues have been focusing on analyzing and synthetizing their results. Two manuscripts, one on freshwater diversity patterns in tropical ecosystems and the other on spatial prediction of stream physicochemical parameters for the Napo River basin, are expected to be submitted for publication in May or June 2015. Two other manuscripts, on hydrocarbons and oil contamination in the Napo Basin and on the Napo river classification system, should be ready for submission in July and August. The team is also modifying their previously calculated ecological integrity index by incorporating additional information on new chemistry values. Then, they will produce a new model to predict an Ecological Integrity Index based on the various threat variables, and they expect to have a manuscript on this topic ready by June 2015. Other activities for the coming months include finishing their contamination map so that they will be able to identify priority areas along the basin for management and conservation, as well as developing a conservation portfolio for freshwater ecosystems, which is expected by the end of 2015. Finally, on the outreach side of the project, the team is also revising their Manual de Biomonitoreo para Ríos Amazónicos (Water Biomonitoring Manual for the Amazonian Streams) with the aim of completing it by the end of June 2015 so that it can be published later this year. A new team member has also been hired to help organizing outreach activities, mainly workshops. A no-cost extension has been authorized through November 30, 2015, to allow sufficient time to complete all planned activities on the project.