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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: August 2013 to July 2015
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
On February 28, 2014, the project team organized a workshop titled “Ecosystem Response to Climate Change in Mountain Wetlands.” Project goals were presented to nearly 20 researchers and students from four universities in addition to Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira. Participants brainstormed research topics to identify those that could be complementary to the PEER Science project. One unexpected benefit of the workshop was the creation of a new linkage with a professor at Universidad Nacional de Colombia who will provide training in bird monitoring to a member of Dr. Castaño’s research group.
From March 20 to April 20, 2014, Dr. Castaño visited U.S. partner Jay Martin at The Ohio State University. During the month-long exchange, Dr. Castaño presented a lecture on the project to Dr. Martin and his graduate students. The PI and his U.S. partner outlined a review paper of ecosystem forecasting, which will be written by PhD candidate Marcela Uribe at Universidad Tecnológica de Pereira. While at OSU, Dr. Castaño also attended lectures on sustainable development and on the impact of increased climate variability and land use change.
Dr. Castaño reports that he has recently received a Young Investigator grant from the Columbian science funding agency Colciencias that will provide support for two additional junior researchers to join the project, focusing on ecosystem services and environmental education. Future plans include a training visit by Marcela Uribe visit to Ohio State in the fall. Equipment installation is ongoing at the Dali Watershed, where an on-site June workshop featuring undergraduate students is planned.
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