The project Integrated Water-Forest Management Model in Switzerland (WATCH-FOR) responds to current research gaps on the integration of forest, eco-hydrology and economic sciences to improve decision-making process. This project envisages integrating environmental and economic data and modelling frameworks in view of climatic, ecological, economic and policy-driven uncertainties to evaluate management and land use decisions, and their effect on watershed services (such as drinking water supply, hydro-power, and protection against natural hazards) as well as traditional and emerging forest ecosystem services (such as timber supply and carbon sequestration). WATCH-FOR boosts interdisciplinary approaches to tackle decision making under uncertainty and the multiple and complex trade-offs and synergies involved. In this way it aims to contribute to the knowledge base on the impact of land use changes, in particular forest management regimes on watershed and forest ecosystem services.
The WATCH-FOR project addresses three research questions:
- How changes in forest management affect the spatial and temporal provision of both forest watershed ecosystem services?
- What is the range of uncertainties associated with plausible futures encompassing diverse pressures on forest and water resources and the ecosystem services they provide?
- How changes in the stock and flows of forest watershed ecosystem services affect their economic values?
The application of the project involves building an integrated water-forest management approach and developing an economic optimization module that integrates hydrological and land use/forestry simulations. This will allow to assess the pathways to an efficient land and forest management in response to multiple objectives and major challenges in face of potential threats to water and forest resources. The effects of changes in forest management regimes and use are expected to be multiple, and their economic assessment complex and subject to relevant uncertainties. Therefore, forested watershed management should ideally be tackled from the most comprehensive standpoint possible according to best scientific information available. The main purpose of introducing uncertainty in the analysis is to find out how sensitive are forest management strategies and outcomes to uncertainty, in a way that this research can provide recommendations on robust management options, when both forest watershed ecosystem services are pondered.
The resulting modelling approach and system of information aims to provide insights to support decision-making, enhance strategic planning and risk management, and eventually help the design of payments for watershed services.