This past Tuesday, I returned to Cerro Plomo’s lower valley to collect more water samples and fill my data set for the Byrd Polar Research Center’s exploratory research. I collected and filtered water at nine additional data points to complete a range along the lower part of the valley, sampling from 3,400 meters at the top of the valley, just past a waterfall, through a vibrant wetland, along a gorge and second waterfall, and descending to a major confluence of the El Cepo Stream at 3,000 meters elevation. This water source confluences with other nearby streams to later form Santiago’s Mapocho River.
Researchers will use our data set to study differences in water isotope, nutrient concentration, and cation/anion levels to help determine what fundamental hydrological changes occur along its path. For example, we hope to gain insight into how water chemistry changes as it passes through a wetland by comparing the data taken before, inside, and after the wetland pictured here.
Yareta (llareta; Azorella compacta). One example of the diversity of plants found above 3,200 meters in the Andes Mountains. Note the unmistakeable, constant water source in the distance, which makes the yareta’s slow 1.5 centimeter/year growth rate possible.
Our high altitude microbe samples, collected for researchers at the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2, start from the 5,400-meter summit of Cerro Plomo and span 1,000 vertical meters below. These samples will advance a global study on alpine microbe function by contributing one of the first of such rock microbe samples from South America. Next week, I will ship both of our data sets for analysis and wait to see what new clues they hold.
A bird’s-eye view of our environmental sampling path: 3,000 – 5,400 meters. Rock samples in red, snow/water samples in blue.
© Copyright 2013 Kurt J. Sanderson unless otherwise noted.