Project 604 - Groundwater and Wetlands in Ibero-America

Wetlands are among the world´s most productive ecosystems that not only support important ecological and biophysical processes, but also constitute a key source of goods and services for communities. They also have a natural purification capability that plays a fundamental role in Earth’s ecosystems maintaining. However, current and predicted environmental and land use changes are expected to impact the natural dynamics of these ecosystems, particularly in response to the dynamics of their interactions with other elements of the hydrological systems, such as groundwater bodies. Many wetlands depend closely on their interations with groundwater sources, which include a wide range of interactive processes associated with both water quantity and quality. Both aquifer and wetland degradation processes and/or subsequent recovery actions may produce significant impacts in the dynamics and interactions between these two resources, as well as in the goods and services that they provide. However, an integrated conceptual framework that synthesizes current knowledge from aquifer-wetland systems is lacking. Such conceptual framework should integrate existing and new knowledge around critical aspects such as hydrological, hydrogeological, hydrogeochemical (including environmental isotopes), numerical modeling of flow and mass transport, and socio-economic dynamics of the wetland interface. Additionally, the conceptual framework should be general enough to include wetland-aquifer systems representative of a range of geologic, climatic, hydrologic and biogeochemical conditions, as well as different histories of management and use. Ultimately, this framework will allow effective management and preservation of wetlands and groundwater resources when the different technical, economical and social goals are put together to get optimized benefits, reduce direct, indirect, and environmental costs, and share responsibilities.

In this project we propose a scientific cooperation program between institutions and researchers that have a recognized experience in the study of wetland-aquifer interfaces a wide range of physical, ecological and social conditions. Each of these experiences, when considered individually, appear to only address specific aspects of the interface, and therefore cannot be used to respond to the grand challenge of understanding and managing these fragile yet important systems. Researchers in this collaboration represent diverse countries in the Ibero-American nations, who have worked and are currently working on the wetland-aquifer interfaces in tropical, subtropical and temperate regions of South America and the Iberian Peninsula. More specifically, our proposed cooperation consists in a cluster of groups, each represented by one of their leaders, who share good experience of collaboration and cooperation, with common backgrounds, yet experienced in a wide set of technical and cultural conditions. Such common history and diversity guarantees the potential success of this group. Each participant will contribute their experience from past and ongoing projects, as well as their involvement in other projects and studies in the area, to define generalities and challenges not only in terms of basic scientific research but in how to involve public administrations and stakeholders, and how to communicate the results to the public. Notably, this cooperation will not only produce an integrated conceptual framework for understanding the hydrological dynamics of the wetland-aquifer interphase, but also will broaden the breadth and depth of the projects that the associated researchers have been conducting in their particular systems. At the end of these cooperations, it is expected that the group will produce a body of work that addresses important scientific questions, as well as some other products that include guidelines to stakeholders.

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