Main Content

Environmental changes in biodiversity hotspot ecosystems of South Ecuador: RESPonse and feedback effECTs

The tropical mountain rain and dry forests (MRF, MDF) of SE-Ecuador are threatened by climate and land-use changes. Their diversity and complexity make projections how they respond to environmental changes challenging. As a solution, we combined a trait-based Response-Effect-Framework (REF) with an improved Land Surface Model (LSM) to project the response of two target ecosystem functions (TF), biomass production and water fluxes, to environmental changes. We successfully implemented a plot system in the MRF and sampled abiotic drivers, biotic trait and process data for a-priori selected plant functional types (PFTs) and conducted first REF analyses that pointed to a complex interplay between abiotic drivers, trait diversity and biotic processes for the TFs. We developed the locally adapted, biodiversity informed LSM HUMBOL-TD (Hydroatmo Unified Model of BiOtic interactions and Local Trait Diversity) by coupling three models that cover the relevant compartments of the MRF.

In phase 2, we will extend our core plot system and sampling scheme based on a-priori selected PFTs to the adjacent MDF to test the resistace of ecosystems under different climate change scenarios and land-use change options. The very large abiotic gradient and the differing seasonality offers unprecedented opportunities to gain a mechanistic understanding of the interplay between abiotic drivers, functional traits and biotic processes in these ecosystems. We will adapt and test the HUMBOL-TD to/for the MDF on the new core plot system and implement an area-wide version of the model for the entire catchments (MDR and MRF) by means of gridded remote sensing products, climate change scenario data and spatial-explicit optimized land-use scenarios.

PIs: Nina Farwig, Jörg Bendix

Team: Felix Matt

Cooperation partner: Nature and Culture International (NCI), Escuela Politécnica Nacional (EPN), Universidad de Azuay (UDA), Universidad de Cuenca (UC), Universidad Técnica Particular de Loja (UTPL), Universidad Nacional de Loja (UNL)