Who are we measuring and modeling for? Supporting multi-level planning and decision-making in real-world payment for watershed services.

Authors: Leah Bremer*, University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, Kate Brauman, University of Minnesota, Perrine Hamel, The Natural Capital Project, Stanford University, Alex Ponette-Gonzalez, University of North Texas
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Coupled Human and Natural Systems, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: payment for ecosystem services, hydrology, Brazil, social-ecological systems
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Governor's Room, Omni, East
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


As payment for watershed services have grown around the world, so have efforts to support these initiatives through generation of ecosystem services information through hydrologic monitoring and modeling. However, these efforts are largely based on ‘ideal world’ assumptions of how these programs work and the information needed to support their planning, implementation, and evaluation. Through semi-structured interviews and focus groups with project managers, funders, and participants in payment for watershed services programs in the Atlantic Forest of Brazil, we demonstrate that hydrologic monitoring can be useful for PWS, but not often in the ways expected by theoretical, idealized conceptualizations of PWS. Utilizing these real-world PWS programs as examples, we identify five opportunities for hydrologic modeling to support decisions in 6 overlapping stages of real-world PWS: 1) inspiring action and support; 2) siting of projects at regional to national scales; 3) informing investment decisions; 4) engagement with potential participants; 5) prioritization of location and types of activities; and 6) evaluation of program success. Within these opportunities, we demonstrate the importance of understanding who will utilize the information generated and how this information will be used in the broader social-ecological context. We argue that hydrologic modeling plays a small role in the larger context of program conceptualization, design, implementation, and evaluation, but that modeling that is grounded in understanding of real-world contexts has the potential to support these projects in unexpected and novel ways.

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