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Models as multiple working hypotheses: hydrological simulation of tropical alpine wetlands

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2011
JournalHydrological Processes
Journal number11
Volume25
Number of pages16
Pages1784-1799
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Tropical alpine grasslands, locally known as páramos, are the water towers of the northern Andes. They are an essential water source for drinking water, irrigation schemes and hydropower plants. But despite their high socio-economic relevance, their hydrological processes are very poorly understood. Since environmental change, ranging from small scale land-use changes to global climate change, is expected to have a strong impact on the hydrological behaviour, a better understanding and hydrological prediction are urgently needed. In this paper, we apply a set of nine hydrological models of different complexity to a small, well monitored upland catchment in the Ecuadorian Andes. The models represent different hypotheses on the hydrological functioning of the páramo ecosystem at catchment scale. Interpretation of the results of the model prediction and uncertainty analysis of the model parameters reveals important insights in the evapotranspiration, surface runoff generation and base flow in the páramo. However, problems with boundary conditions, particularly spatial variability of precipitation, pose serious constraints on the differentiation between model representations.