Systems Analysis, Integrated Assessment and Modelling
In SIAM, we develop and apply models and formal techniques in order to understand, demonstrate, and predict the behavior of natural, technical, social and economical systems that pertain to water and other natural resources. Read more
Uncertainty based assessment of dynamic freshwater scarcity in semi-arid watersheds of Alberta, Canada
Study region: Alberta, Canada. Study focus: The security of freshwater supplies is a growing concern worldwide. Understanding dynamics of water supply and demand is the key for sustainable planning and management of watersheds. Here we analyzed the uncertainties in water supply of Alberta by building an agro-hydrological model, which accounts for major hydrological features, geo-spatial heterogeneity, and conflicts over water-food-energy resources. We examined the cumulative effects of natural features (e.g., potholes, glaciers, climate, soil, vegetation), anthropogenic factors (e.g., dams, irrigation, industrial development), environmental flow requirements (EFR), and calibration schemes on water scarcity in the dynamics of blue and green water resources, and groundwater recharge. New hydrological insights for the region: Natural hydrologic features of the region create a unique hydrological system, which must be accurately represented in the model for reliable estimates of water supply at high spatial and temporal resolution. Accounting for EFR, increases the number of months of water scarcity and the population exposed. Severe blue water scarcity in spring and summer months was found to be due to irrigated agriculture, while in winter months it was mostly due to the demands of petroleum or other industries. We found over exploitation of the groundwater in southern subbasins and concluded that more detailed analysis on groundwater flow and connectivity is required. Our study provides a general and unified approach for similar analyses in other jurisdictions around the world.
Faramarzi,M.; Abbaspour,K.C.; W.L. (Vic) Adamowiczc, Wei Luc, Jon Fennelld,J.; Zehnder,A.J.B.; Goss,G.G. (2017) Uncertainty based assessment of dynamic freshwater scarcity in semi-arid watersheds of Alberta, Canada, Journal of Hydrology: Regional Studies, 9, 48-68, doi:10.1016/j.ejrh.2016.11.003, Institutional Repository
Burden shifting of water quantity and quality stress from megacity Shanghai
Much attention has been paid to burden shifting of CO2 emissions from developed regions to developing regions through trade. However, less discussed is that trade also acts as a mechanism enabling wealthy consumers to shift water quantity and quality stress to their trading partners. In this study, we investigate how Shanghai, the largest megacity in China, draws water resources from all over China and outsources its pollution through virtual quantity and quality water flows associated with trade. The results show that Shanghai's consumption of goods and services in 2007 led to 11.6 billion m3 of freshwater consumption, 796 thousand tons of COD, and 16.2 thousand tons of NH3-N in discharged wastewater. Of this, 79% of freshwater consumption, 82.9% of COD and 82.5% of NH3-N occurred in other Chinese Provinces which provide goods and services to Shanghai. Thirteen Provinces with severe and extreme water quantity stress accounted for 60% of net virtual water import to Shanghai, while 19 Provinces experiencing water quality stress endured 79% of net COD outsourcing and 75.5% of net NH3-N outsourcing from Shanghai. In accordance with the three “redlines” recently put forward by the Chinese central government to control water pollution and cap total water use in all provinces, we suggest that Shanghai should share its responsibility for reducing water quantity and quality stress in its trading partners through taking measures at provincial, industrial, and consumer levels. In the meantime, Shanghai needs to enhance demand side management by promoting low water intensity consumption.
Global assessment of nitrogen losses and trade-offs with yields from major crop cultivations
Agricultural application of reactive nitrogen (N) for fertilization is a cause of massive negative environmental problems on a global scale. However, spatially explicit and crop-specific information on global N losses into the environment and knowledge of trade-offs between N losses and crop yields are largely lacking. We use a crop growth model, Python-based Environmental Policy Integrated Climate (PEPIC), to determine global N losses from three major food crops: maize, rice, and wheat. Simulated total N losses into the environment (including water and atmosphere) are 44 Tg N yr− 1. Two thirds of these, or 29 Tg N yr− 1, are losses to water alone. Rice accounts for the highest N losses, followed by wheat and maize. The N loss intensity (NLI), defined as N losses per unit of yield, is used to address trade-offs between N losses and crop yields. The NLI presents high variation among different countries, indicating diverse N losses to produce the same amount of yields. Simulations of mitigation scenarios indicate that redistributing global N inputs and improving N management could significantly abate N losses and at the same time even increase yields without any additional total N inputs.
Integrating and extending ecological river assessment: Concept and test with two restoration projects
While the number of river restoration projects is increasing, studies on their success or failure relative to expectations are still rare. Only a few decision support methodologies and integrative methods for evaluating the ecological status of rivers are used in river restoration projects, thereby limiting informed management decisions in restoration planning as well as success control. Moreover, studies quantifying river restoration effects are often based on the assessment of a single organism group, and the effects on terrestrial communities are often neglected. In addition, potential effects of water quality or hydrological degradation are often not considered for the evaluation of restoration projects. We used multi-attribute value theory to re-formulate an existing river assessment protocol and extend it to a more comprehensive, integrated ecological assessment program. We considered habitat conditions, water quality regarding nutrients, micropollutants and heavy metals, and five instream and terrestrial organism groups (fish, benthic invertebrates, aquatic vegetation, ground beetles and riparian vegetation). The physical, chemical and biological states of the rivers were assessed separately and combined to value the overall ecological state. The assessment procedure was then applied to restored and unrestored sites at two Swiss rivers to test its feasibility in quantifying the effect of river restoration. Uncertainty in observations was taken into account and propagated through the assessment framework to evaluate the significance of differences between the ecological states of restored and unrestored reaches. In the restored sites, we measured a higher width variability of the river, as well as a higher width of the riparian zone and a higher richness of organism groups. According to the ecological assessment, the river morphology and the biological states were significantly better at the restored sites, with the largest differences detected for ground beetles and fish communities, followed by benthic invertebrates and riparian vegetation. The state of the aquatic vegetation was slightly lower at the restored sites. According to our assessment, the presence of invasive plant species counteracted the potential ecological gain. Water quality could be a causal factor contributing to the absence of larger improvements. Overall, we found significantly better biological and physical states, and integrated ecological states at the restored sites. Even in the absence of comprehensive before-after data, based on the similarity of the reaches before restoration and mechanistic biological knowledge, this can be safely interpreted as a causal consequence of restoration. An integrative perspective across aquatic and riparian organism groups was important to assess the biological effects, because organism groups responded differently to restoration. In addition, the potential deteriorating effect of water quality demonstrates the importance of integrated planning for the reduction of morphological, water quality and hydrological degradation.
The importance of biotic interactions for the prediction of macroinvertebrate communities under multiple stressors
The community assembly of macroinvertebrates in streams depends on the regional taxon pool, dispersal limitations, local habitat conditions and biotic interactions. By integrating existing knowledge about these processes from theoretical ecology in a mechanistic model, we can test our mechanistic understanding and disentangle multiple stressor effects on community assembly. To assess to which degree we can predict the community composition of macroinvertebrates, we integrated these processes in the mechanistic food web model Streambugs and tested it on 36 sites in the Glatt catchment on the Swiss plateau. The model predicts the observation probability of taxa from a regional taxon pool at each site taking into account uncertain knowledge on parameters, environmental conditions at the sites and sampling errors. We use allometric scaling according to the metabolic theory of ecology, ecological stoichiometry and autecological data from trait databases that include the current knowledge on habitat requirements of the different taxa to parameterize their growth, respiration and death. Without any calibration, for the majority of taxa at the 36 sites, the difference between the observed and predicted relative frequency of occurrence is <50% when taking prior parameter uncertainty and the uncertainty of environmental conditions into account (79% compared to 61% for the random model). By calibrating taxon-specific modification factors for the growth rate, we can increase the model compliance with data. Analysing the influence of different ecological traits and their corresponding environmental influence factors reveals that feeding types and sensitivity to organic toxicants contribute most to the predictive capabilities of the model in this catchment. The influence of temperature stress and oxygen depletion due to pollution with organic matter on the community composition is negligible. These results confirm our expectations regarding the most important water quality issues of streams on the Swiss plateau. Current velocity plays an intermediate role in this model application. The contribution of the feeding types to model performance highlights the importance of taking biotic interactions (competition for food sources and predator–prey interactions) into account to predict the coexistence of taxa. Better knowledge of the actual feeding links in the food web (e.g. from gut content or stable isotope data) that are currently inferred from feeding types, body size and food availability could further improve this approach.