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About half of the current population in tropical regions is vulnerable to water stress as a result of natural and anthropogenic stressors. The Galapagos Islands exemplify the complex interactions among geological, hydrological, economic, and social variables that people in tropical regions will face in years ahead. 


  • How does the timing and magnitude of water inputs (rainfall, fog drip) influence ecosystem function, ranging from plant activity, microbial dynamics, and expansion of disturbance?
  • How will island ecosystems respond to future changes in temperature and precipitation regimes?

People: Xiaoming Liu, Diego Riveros-Iregui

This project examines the relationship between precipitation inputs (i.e., fog, rainfall), ecosystem water use, water storage, and water availability, with the goal of assessing the fate of precipitation, evaluating ecosystem function, and determining water availability for human consumption at different times of the year or under different hydrologic regimes (e.g., during El Niño). The tropics are currently inhabited by 40% of the world’s population and 55% of the world’s children under the age of five, yet by 2050 those proportions will increase to 50% and 60%, respectively. This projected growth makes the tropics of particular interest to address global sustainability questions, as tropical regions will inevitably experience climbing pressures and demands for essential ecosystem services. The Galapagos Islands offer a unique example of this global conundrum: a tropical environment with distinct, sharp microclimate zonations imposed by topography combined with exceptional demand for freshwater due to population growth, tourism, land-use change, and contamination.

This project is funded by a Center for Galapagos Studies Seed Grant.