Towards a virtual observatory for ecosystem services and poverty alleviation

Lead Research Organisation: Imperial College London
Department Name: Civil & Environmental Engineering

Abstract

For the indigenous communities of the Pacaya-Samira National Reserve in the Peruvian Amazon, turtle farming is a successful survival strategy. The practice keeps the natural animal population numbers up and provides a necessary source of food and income. However, the success of the activity is highly dependent on information about the erratic river level, which may flood nesting beaches at crucial times. In the Yasuni national park in the Ecuadorian Amazon, bush meat hunting regions are threatened by encroaching deforestation. At the same time in the Andean headwaters of Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, the availability and quality of irrigation water depends strongly on mountain wetland management, and is potentially threatened by global climate change. These are striking examples of many situations where the livelihoods of local communities depend on crucial ecosystem services. However, a sustainable management of these services is only possible using an advanced integration of climatic, hydrological, and ecological data. Current approaches to integrate such data have largely failed for a variety of reasons. In Pacaya Samira, little local data are available resulting in very large uncertainties in the model predictions. In the Andean highlands, local politicians and managers have difficulties interpreting model simulations and design proper land management schemes. Finally, both systems can benefit strongly from the incorporation of local expert knowledge to reduce model uncertainties. Recently, many methodologies for data integration and user interaction have been developed. They are known under the common umbrella of a 'virtual observatory' (VO). The ultimate goal of a VO is a perfect integration of data, models and users. Worldwide, many coordinated activities are ongoing to make this integration a reality. However, far less attention has been paid to the question of how these developments can benefit environmental services management and poverty alleviation. This project will design and implement an environmental prediction system for the above mentioned case studies, using existing virtual observatory tools. In a next step, we will develop, implement and evaluate tools to improve the value of these systems in the specific conditions of poverty alleviation, i.e., (1) Improved communication of simulations. This action will particularly focus on the visualisation of modelling results and their uncertainties; (2) Assessing the value of collected data. In a data sparse and resources constrained environment, an optimal design of new data collection strategies is essential. Here we will develop methods to simulate the value of different data on the model predictions; (3) Integrating local managers' knowledge and practice in modelling systems. This module deals with the development of a user interface to evaluate models, identify model failures and reject models. Heavily relying on public domain software, open standards and existing VO efforts, we will develop a platform for interdisciplinary, cost-efficient and highly tailored environmental data analysis and simulation. This platform will be available immediately for the selected case studies, thus enabling direct poverty alleviation action benefiting an estimated 15000 local inhabitants. Close collaboration with local stakeholders and integration in existing initiatives ensures a quick adoption of the platform. For instance, the InfoAndina website of project partner CONDESAN which will be integrated, has more than 1600 registered users. At the same time, the project will generate novel scientific insights in model simulation, communication and improvement in a developing context. The involvement of the PI in the global Virtual Observatory community will ensure that the research results will optimally benefit ongoing research in this area.

Publications

10 25 50

publication icon
Buytaert W (2017) Glacial melt content of water use in the tropical Andes in Environmental Research Letters

 
Description We found that participatory approaches to data collection and analysis can be very effective to alleviate data scarcity on natural resources in remote mountain areas. We have developed new concepts and methods for joint data analysis with local stakeholders in Peru and Ecuador to generate new knowledge about local water resources, and the impact of climate change on these resources.
Exploitation Route The tools and methods that we developed are available in the public domain and are actively used by several NGOs and other local stakeholders, in particular the IMHEA monitoring network (http://imhea.condesan.org/).
Sectors Environment

 
Description Demonstration of the Environmental Virtual Observatory developed during the project
Sector Environment
Impact Types Societal

 
Description Invited policy briefing on "Information requirements for land management"
Geographic Reach South America 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Presenting the results of the project to around 40 participants from governmental and non-governmental organisations, in a workshop on climate change impacts on water resources. Location: Lima, Peru
 
Description Invited policy briefing on "The role of hydrological Models in decision making on water resources"
Geographic Reach South America 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact Presenting the results of the project to around 60 participants from governmental and non-governmental organisations, as part of a workshop intended to develop a policy framework to stimulate the implementation of mechanisms for benefit sharing. Location: Lima, Peru
 
Description Ecossytem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA)
Amount £1,800,000 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/K010239/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 11/2013 
End 05/2017
 
Description Incubator of projects for watershed services
Amount £400,000 (GBP)
Organisation Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation 
Sector Public
Country Switzerland
Start  
 
Description Incubator of projects for watershed services
Amount £400,000 (GBP)
Organisation Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation 
Sector Public
Country Switzerland
Start  
 
Description The impact of glacier melt on the water resources of the Andes
Amount £13,000 (GBP)
Organisation United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 
Sector Public
Country Global
Start  
 
Description The impact of glacier melt on the water resources of the Andes
Amount £13,000 (GBP)
Organisation United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization 
Sector Public
Country Global
Start 03/2013 
End 02/2014
 
Title Hydrometeorological records of the Pacaipampa highlands, Peru 
Description 3 precipitation and a riverflow time series at 30 min temporal resolution 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2012 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The dataset has been used by regional and national policy makers in Peru (National Water Authority ANA, National Service for Hydrology and Meteorology SENAMHI) as well as a local NGO (Nature and Culture International) for policy decisions on water resources management in the study region (northern Peru). 
 
Description memorandum of understanding with the Peruvian hydrometeorological services SENAMHI 
Organisation National Service of Meteorology and Hydrology of Peru
Country Peru 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution A formal collaboration was set up between the hydrology group of Imperial College London and SENAMHI to share data, knowledge and technologies
Start Year 2012
 
Title RHydro 
Description Package for hydrological modelling in the R environment 
Type Of Technology Software 
Year Produced 2009 
Open Source License? Yes  
Impact This software consists of hydrological models and tools to represent and analyze hydrological data. 
URL https://r-forge.r-project.org/projects/r-hydro/
 
Description : Local stakeholder meeting of Mountain EVO, November 2014 & June 2015, Dhakarjhong, Phalyak and Chhoser, Mustang 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Main institutions that participated: Mukhiya, Users group, local people, teachers and local social/ political leaders
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014,2015
 
Description Hydrological Models for Decision making on water resources 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation for policy makers organised by the NGO Forest Trends, Lima, 08/11/2012
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Information requirements for land management in the tropical Andes 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact presentation for policy makers in the Andean Community of Nations, Lima, Peru
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Workshop 23 July 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact workshop on ecosystem services and virtual observatories in Iquitos, Peru on 23 July 2012
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Workshop 23 May 2011 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact workshop on ecosystem services and water in the Pacaipampa highlands, Peru. Held on 23 May 2011
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Workshop 25 July 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Workshop on ecosystem services and environmental virtual observatories in Piura, Peru on 25 July 2012
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Workshop on interpolation of precipitation data 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop with people from the Peruvian hydrometeorological service (SENAMHI) and the agrarian university of La Molina, Peru, about geostatistical interpolation of precipitation data to generate precipitation maps for Peru.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description workshop 25 May 2011 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop on ecosystem services of the Pacaya Samiria reserve
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011