NEC06630 How does the Paramo capture and store water? The role of plants and people.

Lead Research Organisation: NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology
Department Name: Reynard

Abstract

Páramos are high mountain grassland-peatland biomes (3000m-4000m) that cover a total area of circa 35700km2. They are crucial for the livelihoods and wellbeing of millions of people living in Colombia and neighbouring Northern Andean countries (Venezuela, Venezuela, Ecuador and Peru). Páramos are the main source of water in these regions, are used for crop cultivation and grazing and contain a unique source of untapped genetic diversity. While the Páramos have the potential to support, through the exploitation of its biodiversity, local and regional development, the combined pressure of land use and climate change has already degraded many Páramo areas and their potential demise is a cause for concern for many, including local communities, regional and national policy and decision makers and researchers in Colombia. All agree that any future exploitation requires a sustainable approach and that the management of these systems should enhance the Páramo's resilience to climate change.
However, there is still very much which is not known about the functioning of the Páramos and without this knowledge there is a risk that interventions which are designed to achieve sustainability and enhance resilience are not effective or worse detrimental. Páramos are described as sponges that capture and store water from the atmosphere. Few quantitative studies have investigated the mechanisms behind this process and even less is known about the relative role of the plants and the soil of this complex system. Also, Páramos are socio-ecological systems that have been shaped by the human populations that have inhabited them over several centuries. This interaction is continuing to date with local communities relying solely on the Páramo for their livelihoods.
This interdisciplinary 3 year project aims to, jointly with Colombian collaborators, establish how the diversity of habitats and of plants within the Páramos contributes to water regulation, via direct storage in live agetation and via the supply of organic matter in the soil. We will carry out a large field and drone campaign in the Colombian Páramo Guantiva-la Rusia to collect and analyse data on plants, soil and hydrology. We will carry out satellite image analysis to map landscape scale land cover and peatland condition and improve models so that they better represent the hydrology of the ecosystem. The project will also identify how local Páramo inhabitants, particularly crop and livestock farmers, interact currently with the Páramo ecosystem through their day-to-day farming practices. We will invite local people to participate in workshops and storytelling to jointly discover how they understand they are affecting and are affected by the Páramos' water regulation. We will, as we learn more about the functioning of the Páramo, feedback our findings to the local people and so help them initiate more sustainable solutions.

Planned Impact

Our project's high level goal is to safeguard the sustainable use of the Northern Andean Páramos and so ultimately improve the livelihoods and wellbeing of people living in Colombia and other Andean countries. The proposed research, which aims to substantially enhance current understanding of the Páramos' socio-ecological system, forms a core step towards this goal. The project aims to achieve measurable impact in terms of real changes in people's knowledge, skills and behaviours associated to the Páramos.

Stakeholder groups which we have identified and targeted are:
1.The Páramo Guantiva-la Rusia local farming communities, who rely on the Páramo for their livelihood, will benefit from this project by learning more about their role and impact on the functioning of the Páramo, information which could help support their decision making.
2. The Páramo Guantiva-la Rusia local decision makers, who have a direct impact on the local economy and sustainable use of the Páramo, will benefit by learning about the role of plants and people in the functioning of the Páramo. They will also benefit from the land cover and Páramo status maps and the Páramo valuation the project will produce which will help them in their decision making.
3. Colombian early career scientists and students and who are seeking opportunities for exchanges in expertise within Colombia and between Colombia and UK through collaborations and training. Through the field work bursaries we will be providing opportunities for Colombian early career scientist and students to join the project's activities and so expose them to the expertise of UK and Colombian senior scientists. They will also gain skills and knowledge through informal and formal training that will occur during the planned field campaign and workshops. The four months research visits to the UK offered to 2 Colombian early career scientists will further enhance the exchange of expertise and skills and facilitate international networkie Colombian community of practitioners and researchers who are interested in Drone technology and are keen to exchange drone experiences through an informal national drone network. This community will benefit from sharing with the UK experiences and from evaluating the collected drone imagery collected by the project.

The project will also be relevant to a variety of other stakeholder groups who will be: for example, national and international NGOs who are concerned with the preservation of the Páramo, or who are interested in the welfare of the local communities; regional and national decision makers and policy makers who are concerned with the sustainable use of the Páramo within the context of the national green economy agenda; private companies for whom the Páramo is a resource of genetic diversity, water or minerals; and the general public (Colombian and UK).

Publications

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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
NE/R017654/1 01/08/2018 30/11/2019 £356,871
NE/R017654/2 Transfer NE/R017654/1 01/12/2019 31/07/2021 £169,480
 
Description Convocatoria Programa de Estancias Postdoctorales en entidades del SNCTeI 2019
Amount $96,000,000 (COP)
Funding ID 848 
Organisation Administrative Department of Science, Technology and Innovation (Colciencias) 
Sector Public
Country Colombia
Start 02/2020 
End 01/2021
 
Description PARAMO - Provisioning of ecosystem services And cultuRAl values in the MOntane tropics
Amount £233,669 (GBP)
Funding ID NE/R017417/1 
Organisation Natural Environment Research Council 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2018 
End 07/2021
 
Title Geolocation of study plots in the Guantiva - La Rusia Paramo Complex 
Description This database contains information on the geolocation (geographic coordinates, elevation and toponyms) and date of establishment, for each of the 145 study plots, which will be used for the characterization of vegetation and soil properties. The plots were established in 12 catchment areas within the Guantiva - La Rusia Paramo Complex, and represent the most relevant hydrological response classes in each area. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The plots will allow gathering point information on plant and soils composition and structure of the main hydrological response classes across the entire complex. They were established in a way that will allow the team to monitor and resample them through time, even after the completion of this project term. 
 
Title Preliminary InSAR measures of surface motion over the paramos in Boyoca, Colombia 
Description An prelimary InSAR map of surface velocity that will be used to guide fieldwork in the Paramo. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact Impact has yet to realised but the data will be shown to and shared with people in Colombia to help mutual understanding and aid interpretation of the data. 
 
Title Preliminary plant survey of established plots based on photographic record 
Description This database contains the photographic record of plants registered at the 145 established plots in the Guantiva La Rusia Paramo Complex (Colombia). Metadata of photographs include EXIF and IPTC data with geolocation (with geographic coordinates, elevation and toponyms), plot code, keywords and plant identification (family, genus, species) when possible. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact With already more than 3,000 photographs taken, this database represents a notable outcome to produce a preliminary inventory of the flora found in the plots. The plant diversity and composition of the study plots will be used as input to generate attributes for the hydrological response classes of each of twelve catchments, for which hydrological models will be developed. Also, we are planning to produce photographic field guides for easy plant identification. 
 
Description Article in local Newspaper (Boyaca, Colombia) announcing PARAGUAS project - SIE7EDIAS Boyaca on 19-20 January 2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Newspaper article to announce the PARAGUAS project and make the local communities aware of our objectives. This is to facilitate interaction between social scientists of the project and these local communities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Blog No 1: How are people and plants influencing water storage in the Northern Andes? 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact A blog introducing the PARAGUAS project to a wider audience (academics, general public, policy makers) in the UK and Colombia.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.ceh.ac.uk/news-and-media/blogs/how-are-people-and-plants-influencing-water-provision-col...
 
Description Blog No2: Preparing the ground for PARAGUAS field work 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Blog describing the first field campaign and its outcomes
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.ceh.ac.uk/news-and-media/blogs/preparing-ground-paraguas-field-work
 
Description Can plants predict soil, hydrology, and disturbance regimes in the páramos? IBS 2019 Humboldt-250 Meeting & 2nd Latin American Congress of Biogeography, Quito (Ecuador). 5-9 Aug. 2019. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Roughly 250 international academics attended a talk explaining the relations between plants, soil and water regulation in Paramo ecosystems and the description of our project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.biogeography.org/meetings/ecuador-2019/
 
Description Dialogues from experience: collective contributions for the Integrated Monitoring of High Mountain Ecosystems of Colombia. Organized by IDEAM, Humboldt Institute and Chemonics 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dialogue to discuss biodiversity, soils and social indicators and variables to consider at the site, regional and national scales for a high mountain integrated monitoring strategy. Particularly we participated in the discussions to define indicators at the site and regional levels for biodiversity.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Diazgranados, M. 2018. Páramos and the Kew-Colombia Bio Programme. Symposium: Pa´ramos of Colombia: A Challenge for Conservation and Peace. London School of Economics and Political Science. U.K. 31 Jan [Keynote presentation]. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact In the event we discussed the Colombia BIO Programme which, in partnership with Kew Gardens and other UK institutions, offers a unique opportunity to undertake research on biodiversity and ecosystem services in parts of the country that were previously inaccessible, with a view to enable long-term plans for the conservation and sustainable use of Colombia's natural resources. A brief award winning documentary was screened.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/paramos-of-colombia-a-challenge-for-conservation-and-peace-tickets-42...
 
Description Diazgranados, M. 2019. Course on 'Landscape approach for enhancing mountain resilience' organised by the International Programme on Research and Training on Sustainable Management of Mountain Areas (IPROMO), including a presentation of the project. Pieve Tesino and Ormea (Italy) 02 - 18 July. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 34 young leaders working on sustainable development engaged; awareness of the importance of the paramos; dissemination of the project and the impact we can have in developing countries. The summer school will focus on several aspects, tools and skills that contribute to integrated management of mountain areas through a landscape approach, ranging from environmental conservation, water supply to income generation and food security. Particular emphasis will be placed on the importance of a participatory approach where local communities and authorities closely cooperate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.fao.org/mountain-partnership/our-work/capacitydevelopment/ipromo/course-2019/en/
 
Description Doing Science with Colombia - Panel discussion: "How Science & Innovation collaboration looks in the field 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Event organised by the Science & Innovation team at the British Embassy in Colombia that took place on 2 October 2019 at the Natural History Museum in London.
I represented the PARAGUAS project as a member of one of the panels, discussing "How Science & Innovation collaboration looks in the field" .
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.earlham.ac.uk/doing-science-colombia-2019
 
Description First Social Science Field Trip 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A news item/Blog on the PARAGUAS webpage updating the audience on the first social field trip
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://paraguas.ceh.ac.uk/news-and-media/news/first-social-science-field-trip
 
Description Guardian Article: In the land of El Dorado, clean water has become 'blue gold' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact An extensive Guardian Article by science correspondent Damian Carrington entitled " In the land of El Dorado, clean water has become 'blue gold'". The article describes the PARAGUAS project, the background, its objectives, the team and the first major field campaign
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/apr/09/land-el-dorado-clean-water-blue-gold-paramos-col...
 
Description Notes from the field - PARAGUAS research under way 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A Blog or news item in the PARAGUAS website updating audience on project's first major field campaign
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://paraguas.ceh.ac.uk/news-and-media/news/notes-field-paraguas-research-under-way
 
Description Presentation at: "Consolidación de la Estrategia para el Monitoreo Integrado de los Ecosistemas de Alta Montaña de Colombia" workshop 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact During the "Consolidación de la Estrategia para el Monitoreo Integrado de los Ecosistemas de Alta Montaña de Colombia" workshop which was held in Bogota the 10th and 11th of April 2019 the project and its development was presented in a 15 minutes talk, around 25 persons attended the talk from National Institutions, Academia and NGOs. Some of the attendants asked for further details on the methods and to share ifnormation with projects they are leading. We continue having meetings with them to share methods and ideas.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Project display at Kew's Orchid Festival featuring Colombia 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Display of panels with the project summary and highlights at Kew's Orchid Festival featuring Colombian biodiversity. The exhibition, opened for one month (9 February - 10 March), receives more than 130,000 visitors. Website: https://www.kew.org/about-us/press-media/kew-orchid-festival-celebrate-the-colour-of
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.kew.org/about-us/press-media/kew-orchid-festival-celebrate-the-colour-of
 
Description Talk: Can soil, hydrology and the disturbance regimes through the vegetation in the Paramo? I SYMPOSIUM OF RESEARCH, MANAGEMENT AND CLIMATE CHANGE IN HIGH MOUNTAIN ECOSYSTEMS IN COLOMBIA. 11.2019 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We presented our study in the páramo complex Guantiva-La Rusia (1,190 km2), in the Eastern Cordillera of Colombia, which features broad ranges of temperature and humidity. We selected 6 pristine/altered pairs of research catchments across the climatic range. In each catchment, we identified main hydrological response classes (HRC), and sampled plants and soils in 145 5m×5m plots (~12/catchment; >3/HRC), measuring species richness, plant functional type abundance, and hydro-physical soil properties (pH, penetration resistance, soil moisture retention). Attendants were interested in the presentation of the project and the methodological approach we are using.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL http://www.parquesnacionales.gov.co/portal/es/en-noviembre-se-realizara-el-primer-simposio-sobre-eco...
 
Description UK-Colombia Research Collaboration Reception 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A reception organised by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Embassy of Colombia in the UK to celebrate UK- Colombia science, research, and innovation collaboration. I presented the PARAGUAS project to the President of Colombia.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://www.ukri.org/news/strong-uk-colombian-research-partnership-praised-during-presidential-visit...
 
Description Workshop presentation: How do paramos store water? The role of plants and people. in: Workshop "Consolidation of the Strategy for Integrated Monitoring of High Mountain Ecosystems of Colombia". IDEAM, Humboldt Institute, Condesan. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A workshop in which the high Andean ecosystem integrated monitoring strategy development was presented, in order to begin defining most relevant indicators at the National level and how the Site, Regional and National scales should be integrated as well as which Institutions would be responsible at each scale. During the workshop we had the opportunity to present the project How do paramos Store Water, the role of plants and people, and to participate in the discussions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019