Journal article

Integrating Environmental and Socio-Economic Indicators of a Linked Catchment- Coastal System Using Variable Environmental Intensity

1 Jan 2010

Can we develop land use policy that balances the conflicting views of stakeholders in a catchment while moving toward long term sustainability? Adaptive management provides a strategy for this whereby measures of catchment performance are compared against performance goals in order to progressively improve policy. However, the feedback loop of adaptive management is often slow and irreversible impacts may result before policy has been adapted. In contrast, integrated modelling of future land use policy provides rapid feedback and potentially improves the chance of avoiding unwanted collapse events. Replacing measures of catchment performance with modelled catchment performance has usually required the dynamic linking of many models, both biophysical and socio-economic--and this requires much effort in software development. As an alternative, we propose the use of variable environmental intensity (defined as the ratio of environmental impact over economic output) in a loose coupling of models to provide a sufficient level of integration while avoiding significant effort required for software development. This model construct was applied to the Motueka Catchment of New Zealand where several biophysical (riverine water quantity, sediment, E. coli faecal bacteria, trout numbers, nitrogen transport, marine productivity) models, a socio-economic (gross output, gross margin, job numbers) model, and an agent-based model were linked. An extreme set of land use scenarios (historic, present, and intensive) were applied to this modelling framework. Results suggest that the catchment is presently in a near optimal land use configuration that is unlikely to benefit from further intensification. This would quickly put stress on water quantity (at low flow) and water quality (E. coli). To date, this model evaluation is based on a theoretical test that explores the logical implications of intensification at an unlikely extreme in order to assess the implications of likely growth trajectories from present use. While this has largely been a desktop exercise, it would also be possible to use this framework to model and explore the biophysical and economic impacts of individual or collective catchment visions. We are currently investigating the use of the model in this type of application.

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Publication Place: 
New York, United States
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