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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER) SCIENCE
Cycle 2 (2012 Deadline)

Ecosystem response to climate change in the mountain wetlands

PI:  Juan Castaño (Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira)
U.S. Partner: Jay Martin (The Ohio State University)
Project Dates: September 2013 to August 2016
Since 2008, Colombia has experienced three extreme climate events that have resulted in droughts and flooding during which more than 400 human lives were lost. During these events, 15 percent of the country was inundated and more than $6 billion in economic losses were sustained. While such national and international impacts of climate change are frequently noted and predicted by large-scale models, the local communities that suffer greatly from these disasters and are ultimately responsible for human welfare lack tools to predict and respond to changes in climate. To better prepare local communities to predict climate impacts and develop responses, this project will develop an early alert system to forecast changes in the ecosystem services of water regulation and biodiversity in the Quebrada Dali watershed. This upstream watershed, located in the central Andes of Colombia, affects agricultural and urban downstream areas that have already realized climate impacts and can greatly benefit from tools to predict further impacts and plan proper responses to climate changes.

ColombiaPicture 1 Lisbran, located within the Quebrada Dali Watershed, is where the instrumentation will be located. (Photo courtesy Dr. Castano).

ColombiaPicture 2 The research team takes a break from its fieldwork (Photo courtesy Dr. Castano).

The long-term goal is to develop a sustainable local ecosystem study site to monitor and model short- and long-term effects of climate change on the ecosystem services provided by Quebrada Dali watershed. The early warning system to be built will be based on permanent monitoring and adaptive modeling of the effect of climate change on the ecosystem services of water regulation in a watershed in the central Andes and its influence on water supply systems. A critical need for such a system at a local level is evidenced by the fact that many of the prediction models used to determine the effects of climate change on environmental services and society are based on global scale climate data, but they omit biophysical and social influences that determine local responses. As one of the most vulnerable countries to impacts of climate change, Colombia is an excellent location to examine human adaptation to impacts such as severe floods and drought.

Summary of Recent Activities
Dr. Castaño reports that data has been gathered in recent months on leaf litter decomposition rates at his project study site, and an experiment has been set up to study evapotranspiration ratios of dominant wetland plant species (Eleocharis acicularis and Eleocharis acutanguala). The team has also prepared hydrological scenarios as part of their effort to develop an early warning system based on adaptive modeling of the environmental services of water regulation and biodiversity in the Quebrada Dalí watershed. In addition, they have held several more workshops for local school students and scout groups, and in March they received a visit from U.S. partner Dr. Jay Martin. A brief video narrated by Dr. Martin and showing the project study sites is available at

On March 19, PhD student Marcela Uribe completed her two-month visit to the Everglades Wetland Research Park at Florida Gulf Coast University in Naples, Florida. During her stay, she took part in field research with Dr. William Mitsch and his students at the Natural Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Freedom Park in Naples, and Wakodahatchee Park in Palm Beach and assisted with the field work of a visiting Chinese researcher at the Naples Botanical Garden. The visit also provided her with an opportunity to attend a series of lectures on wetlands-related topics by visiting researchers from Denmark, Iraq, Poland, the Czech Republic, and other U.S. institutions.

The second and third quarters of 2015 will be very busy for researchers on this project. A new master’s student has been recruited to work on the wetland delineation component, and surveys of bird, fish, and aquatic macro-invertebrate biodiversity will be conducted in June, along with a training event on Phenology Ecosystem Monitoring. Plans also call for Dr. Castaño and an official from the local water company Aguas y Aguas to visit the United States beginning by the end of August. 
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