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Investigating water scarcity and governance across social-ecological systems


Environmental and social change in water-scarce regions across the globe poses significant challenges to the well-being of social-ecological systems (SES). WaterSES is a sponsored working group within the Program for Ecosystem Change and Society that promotes transdisciplinary, placed-based comparative research to identify appropriate operational scales for SES stewardship and management.

The Project

The PECS-WaterSES group aims to understand and compare the social-ecological dynamics across international research sites with conflicting local and regional water needs and governance. WaterSES includes international research sites in Spain, China, South Africa and the US (Oklahoma, Texas and Idaho). The sites have different climates, water needs and socio-ecological dynamics, but are all experiencing new regional, societal demands for limited water resources. WaterSES goals are (1) synthesize data collected across research sites to identify novel and pressing SES science questions, (2) identify data needed to make cross-site comparisons and identify sustainable policy solutions at a range of spatial scales and contexts, and (3) target cross-institutional funding opportunities at the national and international level.

Currently, we are working with four place-based research sites: southern Spain, the south-central Great Plains of Oklahoma (US), and the Portneuf and Treasure Valleys, Idaho (US), representing different social-ecological dynamics and watershed management scenarios. Using over 2,000 face-to-face questionnaires, we analyze and compare ecosystem service perceptions within and across four research sites.

Additionally, we explore how those service perceptions vary between stakeholder types and socio-economic factors, and we examine how different social-ecological contexts influence people’s perceptions regarding ecosystem services. We identify shared patterns in the perception of ecosystem services, as for instance the services tourism and food were considered the most important across the four sites. However, respondents in each study site showed own perceptions connected to the intrinsic characteristics of the local landscape, ecological variables and socio-economic context. We demonstrate that social demand for ecosystem services are strongly influenced not just by the social-ecological-cultural context but also by the different social-ecological dynamics and watershed.

The Team

Cristina Quintas-Soriano, Boise State University
Jodi Brandt, Boise State University

Other collaborators:
Antonio J. Castro
Colden Baxter
Trina Running
Marina García-Llorente
Morey Burham
Berta Martín-López
Caryn C. Vaughn
Jason Julian
Felix Liao
Benis Egoh

The Products

Requena-Mullor, C Quintas-Soriano, J Brandt, J Cabello, AJ Castro. 2018. Modeling how land use legacy affects the provision of ecosystem services in Mediterranean southern Spain. Environmental Research Letters 13 (11), 114008.

Castro, A., C. Quintas-Soriano, J. Brandt, C. Atkinson, C. Baxter, M. Burnham, B. Egoh, M. García-Llorente, J. Julian, B. Martín-López, F. Liao, K. Running, C. Vaughn, and A. Norström. 2018. Applying Place-Based Social-Ecological Research to Address Water Scarcity: Insights for Future Research. Sustainability 10:1516.

Castro, A.J., Atkinson, C.L., Baxter, C.V., Brandt, J., Burnham, M., Egoh, B., Garcia-Llorente, M., Julian, J.P., Martín-López, B., Norström, A., Liao, F., Quintas-Soriano, C., Running, K., Vaughn, C.C. Water scarcity and governance across freshwater social-ecological systems (WaterSES): addressing sustainability challenges using the Program on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS) approach

Quintas-Soriano, C., J. S. Brandt, K. Running, C. V. Baxter, D. M. Gibson, J. Narducci, and A. J. Castro. 2018. Social-ecological systems influence ecosystem service perception: a Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS) analysis. Ecology and Society 23.

Funding Sources

Idaho Epscor