Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Dr. Drew Sanderford and Dr. Gary Pivo are senior personnel on a new National Science Foundation grant looking at urban water in the context of coupled natural human systems in cities. It’s a $1.8 million grant over 5 years which involves personnel from the School of Landscape Architecture and Planning, School of Government and Public Policy, Department of Hydrology and Water Resources, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, as well as others from throughout The University of Arizona. The presentation of this grant is another great example of faculty at UA working together for interdisciplinary research projects.

Project Summary

Coupled Networks in Urbanized Landscapes: Linking Ecosystem Services and Governance for Water Sustainability

Learning about how to address water sustainability lies at the center of the sustainability challenges that face our urbanizing world. Thus, addressing sustainability grand challenges requires improved coupled human-natural system knowledge of how water availability and distribution changes with urbanization, and how that redistribution changes optimal policy responses. Here we propose a set of integrated studies of the natural and human systems in Arizona that represent a cross section of cities that face water sustainability challenges. This project seeks to use the cities in a semiarid region as a strategic laboratory to understand and improve linkages between ecosystem services and governance for water sustainability. We propose a framework that describes how cities address water sustainability challenges that consists of the attributes, both natural and human, that cities possess, the learning that these attributes permit and encourage, the actions that results from this learning, and the social and natural outcomes that lead from these actions. The outcomes of action themselves alter the attributes that a particular city possesses, in turn leading to further learning, actions and outcomes.

Objectives: We will address this overall pattern of natural and human city attributes contributing to learning leading to actions and outcomes through an integrated natural and human science approach tightly linked to public and private partnerships that addresses four key questions:

Q1. How do the frequency, intensity and redistribution of rainfall and runoff influence the ecohydrologic response of arid and semi-arid systems and result in emergent ecosystem services? (Natural System)

Q2.How do human system conditions influence learning of actions that influence ecosystem services? (Human System)

Q3.How do natural system conditions influence social networks and the resultant human system actions that link knowledge and action? (Natural System Influence on Human System)

Q4.What do human systems actually implement in terms of alterations to the built environment to influence the form and function of the built environment on natural system processes? (Human System Influence on Natural System)

We will answer these questions through a set of field, survey, lab, workshop, and synthetic experiments in the natural and human sciences. Specifically a suite of research sites will be established in Tucson, Sierra Vista and Yuma, Arizona that allow investigation from the 1 ha/individual to the 100,000 ha/regional scales. Natural science investigations will focus on how ecohydrologic processes integrate from the point to large catchment scale and characterize ecosystem services. The social science research will focus on the policy and governance sectors to investigate learning, decision and action at the municipal scale and importantly across social and bioclimatic regions. This work will be integrated to couple the natural and human systems by investigating how the scientific information about ecosystem services develops into decision making and by using realistic adoption and implementation practices to understand how reasonable water sustainability policy implementation impacts ecosystem services.

Intellectual Merit: This project will address a key challenge in understanding how society undergoes changes in the use and distribution of environmental resources. Specifically how does information disseminate to stakeholders and decision makers from the individual to collective scale. How do these users then solve the collective action problems they are presented with and then how does the coupled human natural system evolve within resource constraints to impact the actual provision of ecosystem services. Within the natural sciences we seek to understand how ecohydrologic processes scale to either reinforce process intensity or diminish process intensity across extensive domains. Within the social sciences we will investigate information dissemination and its impacts on decision and policy making from individual to collective scales.

Broader Impacts: The intent of this project is to provide actionable science about how implementation of water conservation and harvesting measures (such as green infrastructure) interacts with natural processes and is structured by social structures in the coupled natural-human system that is the city. Additionally our project has a robust connection to organizations at the local scale to both disseminate research results and to understand what questions stakeholders have. The project will also educate 3 graduate, 6 undergraduate, and 2 post-doctoral research associates. The team has a history of recruiting and succeeding with young scientists from diverse backgrounds.