1 Therefore, ecosystems are essential for the development of social and economic activities. The high mountain ecosystems provide ecosystem services at local and regional levels. These include the provision of water, food, and wood, among others. High mountain ecosystems also play a fundamental role in terms of weather and water regulation nutrient cycling, pollination, and the supply of cultural services2.
The most important fluvial systems of northern Andean countries originate in paramos, so processes such as irrigation, domestic consumption, and hydroelectric energy make the agricultural sector, communities, and the industrial sector highly dependent on these ecosystems3. In Colombia, the complex water network that originates in paramos engenders very important rivers such as the Magdalena, Cauca, Meta, Guaviare, Putumayo, Atrato, Patía, Ranchería, Catatumbo, and Sinú.
The water regulating capacity of high mountain ecosystems is determined, among other aspects, by their topography and soils. Their topography allows for the formation of many marshes and lagoons; their soils, with a porous structure and large amount of organic matter, have an extraordinary capacity for storing water 4. It is estimated that in Colombia high mountain ecosystems (>2,744 meters above sea level) produce 66.5 km3 of water per year, an amount equivalent to 3% of the total annual precipitation of the country 5. However, these values ignore the quantity of water captured in horizontal rain and additionally contain implicit underestimation errors given the gaps where high mountain hydrometeorological stations are lacking.
La provisión y Water regulation es apenas uno de los servicios que provee la High mountain pero, a la vez, uno de los más vulnerables a los motores de transformación y al climate change. When the ecosystem is altered and the soils are eroded, restoring the hydrological service is practically impossible 6,7. Aunque el sistema hidrológico superficial y subsuperficial del páramo no es comprendido en su totalidad4, Although the surface and subsurface water system of the paramos is not yet completely understood, the importance of its ecological functions is a relevant aspect in their integrated management.
Knowing about the dynamics of the hydrological service, identifying those who are benefited by it, and understanding the extent of human dependence on the resource and how it may be positively exploited (quantity, quality, and availability) allows for management decision-making in paramos in agreement with each context.