EPA Science Inventory

Hydrologic Futures: Using Scenario Analysis to Evaluate Impacts of Forecasted Land Use Change on Hydrologic Services

Citation:

KEPNER, W. G., M. M. Ramsey, E. S. Brown, M. E. Jarchow, K. J. Dickinson, AND A. F. Mark. Hydrologic Futures: Using Scenario Analysis to Evaluate Impacts of Forecasted Land Use Change on Hydrologic Services. EcoSphere. ESA Journals, 3(7):1-25, (2012).

Description:

Land cover and land use changes can substantially alter hydrologic ecosystem services. Water availability and quality can change with modifications to the type or amount of surface vegetation, the permeability of soil and other surfaces, and the introduction of contaminants through human activities. Efforts to understand and predict the effects of land use decisions on hydrologic services—and to use this information in decision making—are challenged by the complexities of ecosystem functioning and by the need to translate scientific information into a form that decision makers can use. Hydrologic modeling coupled with scenario analysis can (1) elucidate hydrologic responses to anticipated changes in land use and (2) improve the utility of scientific information for decision making in a manner that facilitates stakeholder involvement. Using a combination of general concepts and concrete examples, this paper summarizes hydrologic consequences of land use changes and describes the use of modeling and scenario analysis to inform decision making. Two case studies integrate the concepts raised in the paper and illustrate how an approach employing modeling and scenario analysis offers a potentially powerful way to link research on hydrologic services with decision making.

Purpose/Objective:

Human modification of land cover—for agricultural production, urbanization, and the extraction of natural resources—results in sometimes profound, long-term impacts on ecosystems and the goods and services they provide (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment [MA] 2005a, b). The consequences of these changes for biological diversity, ecological resilience, and human wellbeing may rival those of climate change (Vitousek 1994, Chapin et al. 2002, DeFries and Eshleman 2004). Changes in land use and land cover can substantially alter water availability or quality through changes in hydrologic processes and through the introduction of contaminants (Tong and Chen 2002, DeFries and Eshleman 2004, Foley et al. 2005, Brauman et al. 2007). Poorly planned land use changes can also create or exacerbate inequalities, such that poor or marginalized communities are sometimes affected more than affluent communities by water scarcity, low water quality, or flooding (Brauman et al. 2007, United Nations [U.N.] 2007, Rasul and Chowdhury 2010, Bunch et al. 2011). The complexities of ecosystem functioning often confound efforts by scientists and decision makers to understand and predict the effects of land use decisions on hydrologic ecosystem services. Furthermore, decision makers often find that relevant scientific information is not available in a usable form (Liu et al. 2008a). Thus, decision makers often must make far-reaching decisions based on limited information about the potential unintended ecological and socioeconomic consequences—and they typically must do so quickly. The resulting decisions either (1) address current needs for water resources without adequately considering future needs or (2) address the needs of some stakeholders without considering the impacts on other stakeholders or the ecosystem itself (Power et al. 2005, Liu et al. 2008a).

URLs/Downloads:

ES11-00367.1   Exit

KEPNER ORD-11-095 FINAL ARTICLE HYDROLOGIC FUTURES.PDF   (PDF,NA pp, 1106 KB,  about PDF)

Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (JOURNAL/PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL)
Start Date: 08/08/2012
Completion Date: 08/08/2012
Record Last Revised: 10/09/2012
Record Created: 11/16/2011
Record Released: 11/16/2011
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 239524

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL EXPOSURE RESEARCH LAB

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES DIVISION

LANDSCAPE ECOLOGY BRANCH