Páramos are an Andean Mountain tundra ecosystem found in the northern parts of the Andes of South America, between 2800 to 4700 m above sea level. This ecosystem is the principal headwater for lower tropical ecosystems and downstream urban centers in both the Andean and the Orinoco-Amazon regions. Páramos are arguably “the fastest evolving and coolest biodiversity hotspot” (Madriñán, S. et al. (2013) ‘Páramo is the world’s fastest evolving and coolest biodiversity hotspot’, Frontiers in Genetics.); they are projected to shrink by 39-52% within 50 years under current climate-change scenarios, and they might disappear altogether along with the ecosystem services they provide.
One of these services that remains largely unexplored is the carbon storage in the Páramos soils. Organic matter decomposition is slow due to high levels of soil moisture promoting anoxic conditions and low temperatures, and some estimates report that these soils could contain 50% of organic matter. As climate change progresses, it is important to better quantify the carbon stored in these soils as well as the microbial processes that underlie carbon fluxes. This project aims at establishing a baseline for the Colombian Páramos soil microbiome across a soil moisture gradient from the Laguna Seca watershed (Chingaza National Natural Park) to uncover the microbial diversity in these soils and the functional genes that they express under current climate conditions. These preliminary data are critical to understanding how carbon is cycled in relationship with water saturation and projecting how these processes will change.
- NSF Biodiversity On A Changing Planet, Title: Collaborative Research: BoCP-Design: Climate change alteration of soils functional biodiversity of the Páramos, Colombia, $500,000