Using the AquaFluor to Study the Effects of Anthropogenic Disturbance on Distinctive Aquatic Ecosyst

Parameters: Ammonium, Chlorophyll

These systems are extremely unique - they occur at high elevations in the Andean plateau (between 3500m and 5600m) and are comprised of stream-fed wetland networks, alkaline saltpan lakes, and volcanic crater lakes. Though many of our study sites are RAMSAR wetland conservation sites, they all are experiencing intensifying pressures from expanding mining/geothermal development, population growth, and a rapidly growing (yet completely unregulated) ecotourism industry. We have combined experimental and monitoring approaches to study ecosystem processes affected by these human activities in order to provide the necessary information to guide responsible development activities in this region of Bolivia.

We are using the AquaFluor Handheld Fluorometer to obtain measurements of extracted chlorophyll a in multiple lakes experiencing varying degrees of human disturbance. We plan to also develop a protocol for measuring ammonium concentrations in our study lakes.

To our knowledge, this is the first (and only) handheld fluorometer currently available in Bolivia! As a result of our efforts to expose our colleagues in Bolivia to the applications of fluorometry in their research, we hope to encourage Bolivian limnologists to think more broadly about their research questions and methods. On another note, the AquaFluor is absolutely essential for our research. If we did not have the capability to take our measurements on-site, we would not be able to take them at all. Our field conditions are quite harsh; we cannot employ proper preservation/refrigeration techniques due to the lack of access to electricity and extreme remoteness of our sites.

Author: Marita Davison

Institution: Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Cornell University, Bolivia

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