A Metacoupling Framework for Exploring Transboundary Watershed Management

Authors: Leandra Merz*, University of Florida, Vanessa Hull, University of Florida
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Africa, Coupled Human and Natural Systems
Keywords: metacoupling, telecoupling, Limpopo River watershed, transboundary watersheds, coupled human and natural systems
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/11/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 20
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Water is crucial for ecosystem health and socioeconomic development, but water scarcity is
becoming a global concern. Management of transboundary watersheds is inherently challenging
and has the potential to lead to conflict over the allocation of water resources. The metacoupling
framework, which explores the relationships between coupled human and natural systems that are
nested within multiple different scales, has been proposed to inform more holistic management of
transboundary watersheds. This paper provides the first attempt to apply a metacoupling framework
to a transboundary watershed for an improved integrated understanding of this complex system
at multiple spatial scales. It does so with the transnational Limpopo River watershed in Southern
Africa, which covers 1.3% of the continent and supports the livelihoods of 18.8 million people living
in Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Sub-Saharan Africa is experiencing a
growing gap between water availability and demand; the primary drivers are population growth
and agriculture expansion. The novelty of the paper is outlining the importance of applying a
metacoupling framework to transboundary watersheds, identifying the limitations to this application,
and providing a detailed assessment of the steps needed to complete this application. We also
identify directions for future research including application of a metacoupling framework to other
transboundary watersheds and exploration of spillover effects and externalities within this and other
transboundary watersheds.

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