Bofedales: An Atlas for the High-Altitude Wetlands of the Andes

Authors: Gabriel Zeballos Castellon*, The Ohio State University, Karina Yager, Stony Brook University, Bryan Mark, The Ohio State University, Rosa Isela Meneses, Universidad Católica del Norte (Chile)
Topics: Mountain Environments, Land Use and Land Cover Change, Remote Sensing
Keywords: Bofedales, wetlands, Mountain ecosystems, Remote sensing, Hydroecology, Andes
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 11
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This project integrates diverse methods to produce the first distribution map and characterization of the highest wetland ecosystems of the Andes, the bofedales. This omission is due in great part to the bofedales’ remoteness, inaccessibility, and scattered-distribution, but also for lack of effectively integrating remote sensing tools with expert ground assessments. Moreover, because of global warming and the rapid retreat of the glaciers, the bofedales are drying out without the scientist fully understanding how, when, or where exactly this degradation is taking place. Consequently, pastoralists are migrating to the cities, in highly precarious conditions. I propose here to combine state-of-the-art satellite image analysis with field observations to determine the number, size, and location of the bofedales of Bolivia, and to examine the annual to seasonal trends of the vegetation’s vigor, as well as the potential climatological drivers of their degradation as a way to measure the degree of risk to their conservation. My integrated methodology will involve the interpretation of multi-petabyte satellite imagery and the acquisition of hundreds of field-validation data points. The present project is an effort to direct the conservation strategies to protect these ecosystems in order to improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of people that depend on them to survive.

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