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Fundación Cordillera Tropical

27 Case Pkwy

Burlington, VT 05401



© 2019   Fundacion Cordillera Tropical  

"The environment is everything that isn't me."    

  - Albert Einstein

Mazar River Project

Understanding Andean watersheds begins with the monitoring of their rivers; these data are then used to fortify local and regional conservation capacities.  Since 2014 FCT has carried forward the Mazar River Project in the buffer zone of Sangay National Park, with the overarching goal of understanding the behavior of this river and its tributaries.  The station is equipped with sensors to continuously monitor stream stage and turbidity and an automated sampler for event-based collection of stream water samples, providing high frequency data that reduces the uncertainty of observations.


The Mazar was chosen because it is representative of other mountain streams within the larger Paute watershed, one that currently hosts 3 points of hydroelectric production, contributing a third of Ecuador’s total electrical output.  To understand the Mazar is to begin to understand the relationship between river behavior and land cover—be it forest, pasture, agriculture or paramo grassland.

The Mazar River project was established with the installation of monitoring equipment to measure flow rate and suspended sediment concentrations. The project is run by the Fundación Cordillera Tropical with support from participating scientists.  Overarching goals of the project are:

  1. To generate a scientific record of runoff and sediments,

  2. To model the relationship between upstream landcover and the behavior of streams, and their delivery of sediments to downstream reaches,

  3. To develop a strategy to reduce erosion in the upstream landscapes, and

  4. To contribute to the professional capacity of university students and local hydrologists. 


The Mazar River Project is a collaboration between CELEC (Ecuador’s consortium of public electricity companies), the University of Vermont, and FCT, with sustained support of students from the Universidad Politécnica Salesiana (UPS) of Cuenca, who carry out the laboratory analysis of sediments and will help download and order flow data.  FCT is committed to making data from this initiative publicly available. 


With additional funding in the coming years, the Mazar River Project will continue to monitor the Mazar river, to generate a more accurate model of the intricate relationship among the variables of topography, precipitation, native vegetation and human impacts.  But two other opportunities lie ahead:  one, to establish monitoring points, like the Mazar monitoriing site, on other rivers within the larger Paute watershed; and two, to motivate government and civil conservation organizations in Ecuador to develop monitoring programs in other areas of the upper Amazon watershed, fashioned on our experience in the Mazar.

We welcome the participation of collaborating scientists, interested in using the site’s infrastructure and data record to establish new research and assist us with maintaining the long-term monitoring record at the site.  We envision research that will answer and expand upon the following research questions:

  1. What are the temporal dynamics of river fluxes (water, sediment, solutes) in mountain rivers such as the Mazar?

  2. How do fluxes of water, sediment and solutes from this river compare to those of other Andean rivers – and what new insights can be gained from the observation of river fluxes at high temporal frequency?

  3. How are river fluxes changing over time and in response to extremes (floods, droughts)? What insights do the long-term record provide for understanding these changes?

  4. How do land use activities within the watershed influence water quantity and quality? How can the long-term record at the Mazar be used to leverage and provide context for rapid assessments of tributary conditions through limited sampling campaigns?


A note on the Mazar site instrumentation:

The Mazar River site is equipped with a suite of instruments for continuous measurements. These include:

  • An ISCO 6712 automated water sampler for the extraction of stream water samples

  • An ISCO 720 submerged flow module with pressure transducer for measurement of river water level

  • A Forestry Technology Services DTS-12 Digital Turbidity Sensor, recalibrated annually. Record available for January 2015 – November 2018.

  • Davis tipping bucket rain gages located at the river station and at the La Libertad field camp.

Fundación Cordillera has focused its efforts since 2000 in five watersheds of the mountainous region called the Nudo del Azuay

Available reports and studies about the Mazar watershed

Wemple, B.C. M. Roske, D. Martin, C. Schloegel, P. Arévalo Moscoso. Building partnerships for long-term water monitoring in the southern Ecuadorian Andes.  Joint Conference on Forests and Water, International Union of Forest Research Organizations and Latin American Congress on Forests and Water, Valdivia, Chile.  November 6, 2018.


Wemple, B. C., D. Curillo, V. Arevalo, J. Maza, I. Malo, P. Arevalo. Spatial and Temporal Variability of Water Quality in Mixed Páramo, Forest and Agricultural Catchments of the Southern Ecuadorian Andes. American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA. December 13, 2017.


Wemple, B. C. and C. Schloegel. Evaluating Water and Suspended Sediment Fluxes from a Headwater River in the Tropical Andes: Insights for evaluating ecosystem condition and degradation.  American Geophysical Union Chapman Conference on Tropical Ecohydrology, Cuenca, Ecuador. June 5-9, 2016.


Wemple, B. C. and C. Schloegel.  Temporal variability and Annual Fluxes of Water, Sediment and Particulate Phosphorus from a Headwater River in the Tropical Andes: Results from a high-frequency monitoring program. H41H-05. American Geophysical Union Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA. December 17, 2015.