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Sensing the Americas’ Freshwater Ecosystem Risk (SAFER) from Climate Change

Climate variability imposes a range of regional changes on water fluxes and storages triggering changes in freshwater ecosystems and their services. The severity of the changes to is highly variable, but it many freshwater ecosystems will be at risk. Unfortunately, the connection between climate variation and these threats is poorly understood and difficult to assess because it depends on regional climate responses to global climate change. Furthermore, the value of ecosystems services also varies regionally, and assessing and mitigating these threats will require a multi-disciplinary approach in these tightly coupled natural-human systems. We hypothesize that, within freshwater systems and adjacent watersheds, predicted changes in the global and regional climate will produce an alteration of the hydrological cycle, which can be estimated from the freshwater discharge and waterborne deliverables. The effects of climate change will also interact with multiple human stressors. As a result of change in the ecosystem conditions, the ecosystem services provided by them will also change significantly. The objectives of this project are: 1) employ freshwater ecosystems as “sentinels” of climate variability and watershed processes and investigate their interaction with other stressors to assess risks to ecosystem services, and 2) determine management and mitigation strategies which are both technically and economically feasible as well as culturally acceptable. The research outcomes will be: 1) delineation of freshwater ecosystem service risks, 2) determination of management and mitigation strategies, and 3) training of the next generation of scientists in terms of international, interdisciplinary research with policy-relevant outcomes.

Timeline: 
2012-11-01 to 2015-11-01

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