CNH: Collaborative Research: Hydrologic Transformation and Human Resilience to Climate Change in the Peruvian Andes

Climate change and accelerating glacier recession is affecting the water cycle and the future of water resources in the Peruvian Andes. In the Cordillera Blanca, the most glacierized mountain range in the tropics, the natural and social systems of the region are very dependent on glacial water resources and it is considered to be one of the most vulnerable to glacier-related water stress in the world. This interdisciplinary and collaborative research project will evaluate the new system of freshwater governance that is emerging in the Andes and how glacial dynamics are transforming melt water rates as they rapidly recede. The research will generate new insights into the coupled natural and human consequences of glacial recession in the tropical highlands by examining the combined effects of glacier recession on downstream watersheds, the resilience of livelihood systems and the ways in which economic change and shifting water governance are factors in this hydrologic, ecological, and social transformation. The research will also generate new hydrologic models and derive quantitative estimates of glacial water dynamics.

As glacier recession is accelerating in the Cordillera Blanca, dramatic changes in the Andean hydrologic regime pose significant challenges to Andean society. Data and observations from the project will inform water resource policy makers, global change specialists, development practitioners and scientists who study co-related topics such as chemical weathering and physical sedimentation. In examining of climate-glacier-water-society dynamics in the Cordillera Blanca, this research will provide critical information to urban residents, industries, farmers, and policymakers that will inform adaptive strategies and responses to global climate change. Integral to the project is a cross-cultural education and outreach plan that will increase awareness, inform policy managers, strengthen institutional partnerships, and educate the next generation of interdisciplinary scientists at both the undergraduate and graduate level.