In the Andes, multiple human and climatic factors threaten the conservation of bofedales, a type of high altitude peat forming wetland widely distributed in the tropical and subtropical Andes. In northern Chile, climate change and water extraction for industrial activities are among the most significant threats to these relevant socio-hydrological systems hosting indigenous pastoral communities. In this study, we present an integrated analysis of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) anomalies, drought severity and water rights granted to industry to provide insight on the conservation status of bofedales, historical drivers of their transformation, and current threats. Using Landsat satellite imagery from 1986 to 2018, we identify spatio-temporal NDVI changes of 442 bofedales in one of the leading copper producing regions of the world. The NDVI time series analysis over 32 growing seasons was used to detect extreme anomalies, i.e. values outside the 95 % of the reference frequency distribution, indicating periods of extreme changes in the productivity of these high Andes wetlands. To evaluate the relationship between bofedales NDVI extreme periods to drought and continued water extraction activities, we combine a climate-based multi-temporal-scale drought index (SPEI) with the geospatial latitudinal distribution of water rights granted for extractive industries in the study area. Over the time period of analysis, the total amount of granted water rights increased 465 % from 1,201 l/s recorded before 1985 to 5,584 l/s in 2018. In the areas where the highest amount of water rights are concentrated, i.e. between 21.3°S and 22.1°S, “green” bofedales (NDVI>=0.23) are practically absent. NDVI of the austral summer (JFM) was highly correlated with the severity of drought occurring during the three months of the growing season peak. While our findings show bofedal productivity is mostly influenced by precipitation and temperature of the wet season (JFM) during the study period, results also raise questions regarding possible bofedal loss occurring over the previous 80 years prior to the satellite record, wherein water extraction activities have significantly increased according to official records.
|Journal||International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation|
|State||Published - Feb 2023|
- Atacama Desert