HomeDiscoveryGlobal Water InitiativeNew study to inform South American water management

New study to inform South American water management

Do investments in land cover improve water resources? And will they work in a changing climate?

An interdisciplinary group of experts from IonE and around the world is aiming to answer those questions with the help of a new grant through the Belmont Forum, with U.S. researchers funded by the National Science Foundation.

The three-year project, called ClimateWIse and headed by IonE Global Water Initiative lead scientist Kate Brauman, will focus on the high-elevation paramo grasslands and Andean and Atlantic forests of South America, where water resources are under increasing pressure from land use and climate change. The project is important for two reasons, says Brauman.

“First, there’s a lot of science we don’t know for these regions — tropical hydrology and predicting the impacts of climate change on tropical mountains are exciting frontiers with a lot more to be learned. Second, projects to improve water in which downstream water users pay for upstream management are becoming very popular in the mountains of South America. The goals of these projects are laudable, but we don’t yet have evidence that they work, and that evidence is crucial to securing additional funding so the projects can continue.”

The ClimateWIse team, which also includes scientists from the University of North Texas; the University of Sao Paulo; the University of Kassel, Germany; and the Natural Capital Project, will work with the Latin American Water Funds Partnership and the Brazilian Water Producer Program to evaluate on-the-ground projects, analyze monitoring data and build hydrologic models to inform project managers as well as answer important basic science questions about land, water and climate in South American mountains.

“Investments in watershed services in South America present a unique opportunity for science and practice, and I’m thrilled to be working with these collaborators and partners,” Brauman said. “Understanding the impact of watershed investments is critical for the communities that are engaged in them. At the same time, the watershed investment projects themselves provide data for understanding water in South American mountains.”

Photo by Mariano Mantel (Flickr/Creative Commons)

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