Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: Sch of Geography, Earth & Env Sciences


Project Summary (Please do not exceed 4000 characters, including spaces):

Project highlights:
The development and validation of hydrological process understanding of high-altitude mountain wetlands (bofedales) that will transform understanding of mountain water provision to highly dependent and vulnerable end users in Peru. Co-developed with end-users (CONDESAN) to maximise the impact of the project in regional water resource planning in Peru. A multi-disciplinary project that is closely aligned with NERCs most-wanted skills including: freshwater science, fieldwork, laboratory analysis, modelling and numeracy.

Mountains are the world's water towers because they convey large rainfall inputs and meltwater from snow and glaciers to downstream regions. In the arid lowlands of western Peru, runoff from the Andes mountain range is pivotal in meeting domestic and industrial water demand relating to hydropower production, mining and agriculture (Vuille et al., 2018). However, rising water demand, projected climate warming (Pabón-Caicedo et al., 2020), and the continued retreat of Peru's mountain glaciers (Zemp et al., 2019) are exacerbating national water scarcity and affirm the need for effective water resource planning. A key bottleneck to this, is lack of hydrological process understanding relating to how Andean rainfall and meltwater propagates through the terrestrial water cycle to downstream end users (Buytaert et al., 2017).

In the Peruvian Andes, vast mountain wetland systems, locally known as bofedales, are thought to be important water stores that regulate the release of stored water seasonally and, therefore, are likely to control the provision of mountain runoff to downstream end users (Buytaert et al., 2011). These natural infrastructures also provide wider ecosystem services by altering
mountain runoff, enriching local biodiversity and acting as a considerable carbon store (Hribljan et al., 2015). They are, however, extremely vulnerable to hydroclimatic shifts and anthropogenic disturbances brought about by climate warming, glacier retreat, and peat exploitation (Polk et al., 2017). Despite their potential hydrological significance and high vulnerability to environmental change, our current understanding of bofedales hydrology is very limited.

This study aims to address this knowledge gap by developing new process-understanding of bofedales hydrology. This will be underpinned by new and existing in-situ field measurements which will be used to characterise bofedales water sources and pathways dynamics and their interactions (e.g. snow, glaciers, hillslopes, groundwater). Once established, the new process-understanding will be implemented in a computational glacier-hydrology model and validated against field data, with the potential to use this to explore the wider significance of bofedales in meeting downstream human and environmental water demand.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
NE/S007350/1 01/10/2019 30/09/2027
2592168 Studentship NE/S007350/1 04/10/2021 26/03/2025 Tom Gribbin