In the Andes mountainous region of South America grasslands known as páramos provide important ecosystem services like sustaining biodiversity, securing carbon sequestration and providing water storage. However, many páramos regions are subject to land use change due to expanding agriculture, intensified grazing and land burning. These are usually caused by socio-economic factors driving local communities to increase their income generation. Trying to achieve a better understanding of the páramos is often restricted to exploring specific details and does not follow an integrated approach or a comprehensive ecosystem analysis.
In this research the focus is on better understanding the dominant ecohydrological processes and their interactions. An integrated approach is followed using in-situ measurements, field experiments, laboratory analyses, and numerical modelling. Also, different hydroinformatics tools are used to identify and quantify the ecosystem services provided by the páramos. Moreover, a framework is developed that allows a more realistic quantification and mapping of the main ecosystem services. The approach was carried out for a test site in an Ecological area in North Ecuador. The findings show a clear difference in ecosystem services depending on their altitudinal range and type of vegetation. These results can be used to further develop environmental management and landscape planning strategies, in order to better meet the social goals. This research is aligned with the priorities advocated in the IPCC Report (2007) 'to improve representation of the interactive coupling between ecosystems and the climate system', and with SDG #15: Life on Land 'By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services'.
1 General introduction
1.2 Motivation of the study
1.3 General objective
1.4 Outline of the thesis
2 Description of the study area
2.3 Vegetation cover and soils
2.5 Hydro ‐ Meteorological data
3 Catchment characterization and altitudinal‐ range analysis of carbon stocks
3.2 Materials and methods
4 Estimating Gross Primary production and hydrological processes in páramo grasslands
4.2 Methods and data
5 Analysis of the relationship between climate variables and gross primary production using data driven techniques
5.2 Methods and data
6 Runoff generation in a combined glacier ‐ páramo catchment
6.2 Materials and methods
7 A process‐oriented hydrological representation of a páramo catchment
7.2 Methods and data
7.3 Results and discussion
8 Ecosystem services assessment in a páramo system
8.2 Materials and methods
9 Conclusions and recommendations
9.2 Main contributions
9.3 Recommendations for future research
IHE Delft PhD programme leads to a deepening of a field of specialisation. PhD fellows do scientific research, often with conclusions that directly influence their region. At IHE Delft, PhD researchers from around the world participate in problem-focused and solution-oriented research on development issues, resulting in an inspiring research environment. PhD fellows work together with other researchers from many countries dealing with topics related to water and the environment.
PhD research is often carried out in the ‘sandwich’ model. Preparation and final reporting – the first and last portion of the programme – are carried out in Delft, while actual research is done in the fellow’s home country, under co-supervision of a local institute. Regular contacts with the promotor are maintained through visits and long-distance communication. This enables researchers to employ solutions directly to problems in their geographical region.
IHE Delft PhD degrees are awarded jointly with a university. The degrees are highly valued and fully recognised in all parts of the world.