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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 - January 2018

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Video of U.S. partner’s March 2015 visit

Project Overview

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 Dalí 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. Castaño).

2-65 Mammal Tracking Mammals tracked by the research team in the targeted research site. (Photo courtesy Dr. Castaño).

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 Dalí 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
Regarding his first project objective, creating a baseline study of the ecosystems services of water regulation and biodiversity at the Quebrada Dali watershed, Dr. Castaño and his team continued data collection from their installed instrumentation and conducted a fish habitat quality assessment in the final quarter of 2016. They are also preparing publications on their work on stream macroinvertebrates, mammals, runoff rainfall modeling, and forecasting based on wetlands phenology. On the objective of building local institutional capacities to enhance the long-term sustainability of the ecosystem study site at the Quebrada Dali watershed, the PI and partners from the local drinking water company have submitted a joint proposal in response to a grant call from the national environment ministry.

In the coming months as the project moves towards its close at the end of January 2018, the researchers will continue regular data collection and stream measurements at their Quebrada Dali site. They expect to publish a paper on macroinvertebrates in the journal Hidrobiologica of the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana in Mexico and will submit short communications on mammals and fish for publication. They will continue trying to contact the former bachelor’s student in biology to obtain a copy of his presentation at a conference last year. Dr. Castaño plans to write the methods and introductory sections of another planned paper on forecasting based on wetlands phenology. On the outreach side, the team will present their results to people from the local environmental agency and will focus developing a characterization of scout leaders to help improve their program for engaging local scouts. While working with these groups over the past years of the project, the PI and his group found that in most cases, the scout leaders lack the skills needed to interpret the environment in a way that children can grasp. The team will have a set of meetings and will use their planned workshops to prepare a training program for scout leaders that will use the study site as a living lab. In addition, the team will conduct a workshop to share data with a faculty member from the University of Caldas whose group is working on palynology. That group will be sending a Master’s student to work with the PI and his team at their study site.

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