Anthropogenic activities in the páramo trigger ecological shifts in Tropical Andean lakes

Kimberley Hagemans, Timme H. Donders, Kees Nooren, Iris E.E. Scheper, Martin C.A. Stekelenburg, Maud Theunissen, Philip S.J. Minderhoud, Alejandra Goldenberg-Vilar, Susana León-Yánez, Manuela Ormaza, Friederike Wagner-Cremer, Aleksandra Cvetkoska

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Abstract

A robust understanding of the impact of anthropogenic activities on high-altitude tropical aquatic ecosystems is key for the conservation and protection of the Tropical Andean biodiversity hot spot. We present the results of a multiproxy study of lake sediments from the high Andean páramo of El Cajas National Park, a UNESCO biosphere reserve in Ecuador. The main site, Laguna Pallcacocha, is well known for recording El Niño-driven clastic flood layers that are triggered by high-intensity rainfall anomalies from the eastern Pacific. The second site, Laguna El Ocho, does not contain clastic laminations, providing a control. The records show abrupt shifts in diatom assemblages ca. AD 1991 in both high-elevation Andean lakes accompanied by local changes in páramo composition that suggest a sudden nutrient enrichment of the environment. The diatom assemblages from Laguna Pallcacocha, in relation to the clastic input events, are remarkably stable and do not show evident El Niño signals at the analysed resolution. Based on comparison with the nonlaminated El Ocho record, we deduce the main source of this nutrient enrichment to be the construction of a heavily transited road that runs through the park, while climate warming played secondary role by amplifying its effects.

Original languageEnglish
JournalQuaternary Research (United States)
StatePublished - 5 Jun 2023

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