By Paula Costilla, Paula Zapperi and Facundo Scordo
SAFER (Sensing the Americas’ Freshwater Ecosystem Risk from Climate Change) is an inter-American, interdisciplinary network integrated by researchers, students and technology support. Geology, biology, paleolimnology, hydrometeorology, physical limnology and social sciences are all applied as tools for the evaluation of project objectives, and this diversity is reflected in the SAFER student projects.
Most of the SAFER students have participated in one or more Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON) meetings, and since they will attend GLEON 16, this article is focused on their present research interests.
SAFER’s main objectives are: 1) Study continental aquatic ecosystems as “sentinels”, “sensors” and “integrators” of climate change, climate variability and watershed processes, 2) Accurate assessment of triggers, boundary conditions and change rates that risk actual ecosystem services in the Americas, 3) Design of management and mitigation strategies technically and economically feasible and culturally acceptable.
In summary, SAFER considers the evolution of lakes and associated watersheds, and what their effects are on the surrounding communities, as well as how these communities have affected the lakes and watersheds. Ecological studies are carried out in shallow lakes and wetlands of Argentina and Chile.
- With a BS in Biology, Belén Alfonso studies dynamics of zooplankton and its relationship with limnological and climatic variables in La Salada Lake (Buenos Aires Province, Argentina).
- Roxanna Ayllon (BS in Forestry) is working to characterize the ecohydrology of forested freshwater wetlands in Southern Chile.
- Federico Quintans (BS in Biology) applies his knowledge of biogeochemistry to the ecosystem function of wet prairies at a costal lagoon in Uruguay, specifically studying the effect of soil management on Nitrogen and denitrification dynamics.
- Hydraulics and environmental sensoring are the research interests of Henry Pai (BS in Engineering), who studies groundwater-surface water interactions.
- Vanina Aliaga (BS in Geography) is studying climate and antropic impact over five Pampean Lakes (Buenos Aires Province, Argentina) using remote sensing and numerical models.
- Facundo Scordo (BS in Environmental Science) shares these interests along with global change since the objective of his work is to analyze how climate variability and anthropogenic influences affect the ecosystem of Colhué Huapi and Musters lakes (Chubut Province, Argentina).
- Vanesa Perillo (BS in Biochemstry) is interested in aquatic ecosystems, nutrient cycle modeling and aquatic microorganisms. Her working place is Lake Champlainis (Vermont USA)
- Carina Seitz (BS in Geology) is basing her research project in paleolimnogy since her work seeks to determine the main geological, geomorphological and limnological factors that have formed and modified the pampean lakes (Argentina) throughout a hydrologic gradient.
- In Ciénaga Grande de Santa Marta and Ciénaga del Totumo (Chengue System, Colombia), Yuliana Serna (BS in Biology) works to describe forcing factors, ecosystem boundary conditions and rates of change throughout mid to late Holocene. In order to achieve this, she analyzes sediments of coastal lagoons with different grades of connectivity with the Colombian Caribbean.
- Finally, María Belen Bertoni (BS in Anthropology) is applying community participatory action research techniques and structural prospective to analyze social perception through water uses across Argentinean SAFER sites.
The SAFER project is considered a flexible approach, which can be easily adapted to address future developments in observatory science. At the same time, the results are directed to obtain policy relevant actions, helping to form partnerships that are of interest to decision makers. A major goal for SAFER is the dissemination of research, as well as information about water, lakes and river issues, integrated with the effects of climate change and variability across the water bodies, as well as the local inhabitants.
Interdisciplinary student work connected through a network of people and technology, as well as connections with other observatory networks, such as GLEON, are essential to achieve SAFER objectives.