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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER)
Cycle 4 (2015 Deadline)

Water resources response on glacier dynamics in Central Asia transboundary river basins

PI: Tamara Tuzova (, EnConsult and Institute of Water Problems and Hydro Power of the National Academy of Sciences of Kyrgyzstan
U.S. Partner: David Watkins, Michigan Technological University
Project Dates: December 2015 - May 2019

Project Overview

Water is both a crucial limiting resource and a central unifying element in coupled human-natural systems, particularly in arid regions. The rivers of Central Asia originate in high mountains that support an syncretistic civilization and vibrant ecosystems, as well as agricultural and economic activity of increasing regional and global importance. The water resources system in Central Asia is under stress due to multiple interrelated drivers of change. The water supply from seasonal snow and glacial melt is and will be impacted by climate change, and water demands will continue to increase with population growth and land use change. This project will deliver important information about long-term climate and glacier-water resources changes in a major transboundary river basin of Central Asia, specifically the Amu Darya River basin and its tributarities in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. New advanced data on Central Asia deglaciation during the Holocene based on the glacial moraine physical stratigraphy and isotope-chemistry analyses (14С, 234U/238U, 16О/18О) are critical, particularly for the poorly studied transboundary river basins, to understand the past and possible future scenarios of deglaciation and water resources change under global and regional climate change impacts. The new data to be obtained in the project will enrich the research program being carried out by the U.S. Government-supported partner and colleagues in their project on spatial-temporal changes in climate and glacier water resources in Central Asia. By comparing the data to be collected in this project with existing paleoclimate records from ice cores in the Altai, Tien Shan, Pamir, Kunlun, Tibet, and the Himalayas, the researchers will gain better understanding of Asian climate variability during the Holocene. This will reveal the dynamics in space and time of major historical climatic events and periods that have occurred in Asia. Understanding the mechanisms and rate of past climate and glacier variability in Asia is crucial to developing new methods for glacier-water resources prediction, vulnerability metrics, and adaptation strategies.

Specific project tasks include analyzing meteorological and hydrological data sets from the last 50-100 years and integrating them with new data on paleoclimate and deglaciation to elucidate water resource variability within the transboundary river basins. Analysis of the modern and Holocene time set data will help predict possible water resource changes in the future and evaluate adaptation options that respond to environment requirements, agricultural and urban demands, ecosystem services, and flood management. The gaps in hydrological measurements and total absence of data following the disintegration of the USSR will be complimented by new research data obtained during the project. The results of the project should help officials in the region take timely measures to adapt to climate change, alleviate its effects, and relieve the international stress caused by the growing deficit of water resources.

Summery of Recent Activities

The main goal for the first quarter of 2019 was to hold an international workshop to discuss the results of the PEER-454 project and similar investigations in Central Asia with further publication of the presented papers. The seminar had been prepared via correspondence with potential participants of the workshop from December 2018 to March 2019 and was held in Bishkek, March 25-27, 2019.

In order to complete the scheduled works on the project in April and in May the team will prepare articles for a special issue of the journal Nauka, Novie Technologii i Innovacii Kyrgyzskoi Respubliki (JNNTI, ISSN 1694-7749) [Science, New Technologies and Innovations of the Kyrgyz Republic], an issue similar to the one published in 2018. Some of the papers presented during the workshop were submitted for publication in (CAJWR, ISSN: 2522-9060). The team selected these journals for publication of the workshop papers because they are accessible for Russian-speaking authors and can promote international collaboration in solving water problems of Central Asia. In order to prepare their presentations as articles according to international requirements, many of the workshop participants attended a training title Main Principles of Academic Writing and Reviewing, organized in Bishkek in February 18-20, 2019 and funded by the World Bank.

In addition to the abovementioned publications, project researchers submitted applications to participate and present the results of the project in the following international workshops:
  1. The European Commission project on Central Asian Research and Education Network (CAREN) with the paper titled “Modeling Climate Change in Central Asia”, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, May 16-17, 2019.
  2. The USAID-AUCA project on Current and FutureCondition of Water Resources and Environmental Problems in Central Asia with the paper titled “Condition of Water Resources in Central Asia”, Bishkek, June 24-26, 2019.

4-454 Water Sampling4-454 Moraine and Ice Sampling
The team conducted a number of field visits to collect water, ice, and moraine samples (photo courtesy of Dr. Tuzova).

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