The Chilean-Peruvian arid coastal fog ecosystems under climate change: understanding biosphere-atmosphere interactions to support biodiversity conservation

Publishable summary: 

The (hyper) arid coastal zone of northern Chile and southern Peru is home to unique ecosystems, so called fog oases, which depend on coastal fog as main source of water. With up to 450 plant species they constitute hot spots of biodiversity and important conservation areas. Due to their particular sensitivity to environmental changes they are bioindicators of changing climate conditions but at the same time also highly vulnerable to humaninduced disturbance. In fact, in the recent decades the Chilean-Peruvian fog ecosystems have shown increasing signs of decline, which might be linked to abrupt mesoscale climate shifts since the mid1970s.

However, the magnitude of the decline and the underlying causal biosphereatmosphere relationships are yet to be investigated to enable the implementation of more effective conservation strategies. Against this background, the project aims to understand the connection between the spatial distribution patterns of the coastal fog ecosystems, the Stratocumulus cloud variability and oceanicatmospheric indices as well as the species/ genetic diversity and spatial dynamics of the plants. Geoecological modeling is built on results of remote sensingbased methods for the multiscale characterization of fog ecosystems as well as analyses regarding the origin of humidity, its atmospheric distribution and availability for plants. Recent in-situ measurements of fog water amount and projections of future coastal fog water availability under different climatic scenarios will allow valuating scenarios of the future extent and state of the Chilean-Peruvian fog ecosystems, thereby providing valuable decision support for authorities in biodiversity conservation.

The particular innovation of the proposed project lies in providing for the first time an integrative interdisciplinary perspective on the status, geoecological factors and development prospects of fog ecosystems of the Chilean-Peruvian coastal desert