Moving from Random to Resilient: The role of watershed governance in shaping ecological restoration across Lake Erie

Authors: Rachel L Lamb*, Department of Geographical Sciences, University of Maryland, College Park, Meghan Klasic*, Geography, Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior, University of California - Davis, Vanessa Vargas-Nguyen, Marine, Estuarine, Environmental Science, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Kelsey Leonard, Department of Political Science, McMaster University
Topics: Applied Geography, Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Water Resources and Hydrology
Keywords: social-ecological networks, resilience, harmful algal blooms, Lake Erie, watershed, ecological restoration
Session Type: Lightning Paper
Day: 4/3/2019
Start / End Time: 4:30 PM / 6:10 PM
Room: Congressional B, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Managing for Harmful Algae Blooms (HABs) in the western and central basins of Lake Erie requires collaboration and action at multiple levels of governance. It is made even more complicated as an international and transboundary system, where disparate political, legal, ecological, and other priorities influence lake and watershed resilience. To be successful in managing HABs and to build towards Lake Erie's long-term resilience, policy and management decisions must account for both social and ecological aspects of the system. Current frameworks often only focus on a single aspect using siloed disciplinary approaches, however, a more synthesized approach to improving water quality is needed. With this in mind and to inform Lake Erie HAB management, we take a multi-method approach that combines social-ecological network analysis, observed ecological data trends, and regional funding priorities, to conceptualize the cross-scale relationships between water governance actors and ecological processes. In this way, we can begin to characterize Lake Erie’s heterogenous return on environmental restoration investments. Through this applied approach combining social, ecological, and economic considerations, our research informs water resource governance and resilience literature by beginning to unravel the complex relationships between and among social and ecological actors in transboundary water bodies. This work also emphasizes the importance of identifying weakened governance structures at policy-relevant scales where missing governance actors or a lack of funding may contribute to poor water quality.

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