Mauricio Arias

Mauricio Arias

Dr. Mauricio Arias
Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Department
Harvard University
26 Oxford Street
Cambridge, MA 02138 USA
Office: Non-resident
Group affiliation: Associate

Mauricio Arias is an Associate in the Sustainability Science Program working with colleagues at Harvard’s Organismic and Evolutionary Biology Department and appointed through Harvard Kennedy School’s Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business & Government. Mauricio is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of South Florida.  He was a Giorgio Ruffolo Post-doctoral Research Fellow in Sustainability Science (2014-2016).  His research aims at creating science-based linkages between the hydrological cycle, ecosystems, and society in order to promote sustainable management of water resources. He has studied physical, biological and chemical properties of freshwater ecosystems around the world, primarily in the tropics. As part of the Initiative on Sustainable Development of the Amazon and its Surrounding Regions: The Interplay of Changing Climate, Hydrology, and Land Use led by Paul Moorcroft, Mauricio is investigating the effect of hydropower operations in river flows and how hydrological alterations through the basin could be mitigated while maintaining electricity generation needs. He holds a Bachelor of Science and a Masters of Engineering in Environmental Engineering Sciences from the University of Florida, and a PhD in Civil Engineering from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. Mauricio’s doctoral research focused on the Mekong River Basin, where he quantified the impacts of hydropower development and climate change on the hydrology and ecology of the Tonle Sap, Southeast Asia’s largest lake and one of the most productive freshwater fisheries on the planet. His host at Harvard is Paul Moorcroft.

Tradeoffs between hydropower and hydrological alterations in the Amazon
This project asks what the future fate for hydropower generation in the Amazon is under the changing climate and deforestation and what can be done to maintain the basin’s wellbeing?

Hydropower will continue to play a major contribution to Brazil’s energy agenda. With near 50% of the country’s potential hydropower development, the Tapajós Basin in Southeast Amazonia will have an increasingly important role in the national electricity market. Given the environmental and hydrological shifts this basin has faced and will likely continue to experience in the future, the main questions that this project asks are: what is the fate for hydropower generation in the Tapajós under the changing climate and forest conversion in the Amazon? What can be done to maintain the basin’s wellbeing? These questions are being addressed with long-term environmental datasets, a series of computation tools, and stakeholder consultation and engagement. Thus far, a number of computer models have been developed, which are able to estimate daily scale, decadal patterns of the regional climate, the basin’s biosphere, river flows, and hydropower generation. Simulations of historical and future conditions highlight that the combined effects of climate change and deforestation have altered the seasonality of river flows in recent decades, and such alterations are likely to increase over the next century. As part of this initiative, two stakeholder engagement workshops were organized in Brasilia in November 2014 and 2015. Moreover, results from the study have been presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting in 2015 and 2016, and a number of manuscripts presenting the results of this study will become available in the coming months.

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