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Hiking for science: hydrological research at the Páramo of Chirripó, Costa Rica

[caption id="attachment_3902" align="alignright" width="300"] Weather stations installed at the Base Crestones shelterWritten by Germain Esquivel-Hernández, Associate Professor at the School of Chemistry of the National University in Costa Rica.Restricted to the latitudinal zone between the parallels of 11°N and 8°S, the Páramo is a key mountainous tropical ecosystem in South America because of the environmental services it provides, including high water production and carbon storage capacity. However, the so-called 'Isthmian Páramo' situated in Costa Rica and Panama remains understudied due to its remote location, compared to some of the better understood Páramo areas in South America. Here, I share how I embarked on a scientific journey to reveal the water secrets of the most extensive Páramo region in Central America: Chirripó.Chirripó is a national park with an extension of about 100 km2, situated in the Talamanca Range (southern Costa Rica), where approximately 30 lakes of glacial origin are found. Visiting Chirripó is not...
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The Tree on Top of the World

“But if you do know what is taught by plants and weather, you are in on the gossip and can feel truly at home. The sum of a field's forces become what we call very loosely the 'spirit of the place.' To know the spirit of a place is to realize that you are a part of a part and that the whole is made parts, each of which in a whole.” - Gary Snyder[caption id="attachment_3019" align="alignright" width="300"] Katie busy doing fieldwork at a Polylepis tree location5:30 AM. 3600 M. Southern Ecuador. The whisper of dawn. I sipped the bitter coffee, my frozen fingers wrapped around the mug’s heat. Around me for miles the high altitude paramo grasslands were bright with a strange light: the night’s full moon (a once-in-a-few-years-super-blue-blood-moon) was setting, and the sun, not yet up, was just beginning to shoulder its crimson way toward the horizon. The grass ridges...
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A field guide that unravels the hidden secrets of the páramo

[caption id="attachment_2315" align="alignleft" width="300"] Monitoring of meteorological variables in the Quinuas River Ecohydrological Observatory. (Photo credit: Galo Carrillo-Rojas)Can you imagine transporting to a magic realm full of beauty, nature and good vibe and being able to unravel its hidden secrets? Well, in the field guide attached to this post you will be taken to a short journey through two Ecohydrological Observatories in the páramo, where a bunch of enthusiastic and motivated young researchers have overcome the struggles of the environmental conditions in these sites located at the top of the Andean mountain range to discover its most hidden secrets. These pioneer investigators have provided answers to some simple but highly relevant questions in our days, such as: How much does it rain in the páramo? How does elevation influence climate in the Andean Highlands? How much do soils and vegetation evapotranspire? What is the origin, age and fate of water in...
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