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WSC-Category 1: Humans, Hydrology, Climate Change, and Ecosystems- An Integrated Analysis of Water Resources and Ecosystem Services in the Great Lakes Basin

1039062<br/>Mayer<br/><br/>Water shortages will likely be exacerbated by climate change in water-scarce regions, but water-rich regions may get wetter. The Great Lakes region of North America is undeniably water-rich, but apprehension exists that water resources may be over-used. Policies for regulating water withdrawals and exports are evolving through the recently-passed binational Great Lakes Water Compact, including prescriptions for water conservation. The economic future of the region is uncertain and may be linked to expansion of potentially water-intensive sectors such as biofuel feedstock growth and processing. Shifts in water usage may bring about corresponding stresses on ecosystems. Climate change will bring about shifts in the hydrologic cycle that will also produce stress on aquatic ecosystems. If pressures on water resources intensify in the Great Lakes, will individuals and organization within this water-rich region modify their behavior to conserve water? They propose to address this question by (a) developing integrated biophysical models for predicting ecosystem impacts due to future scenarios of land and climate change and (b) developing an understanding of how the region's groups and individuals view the regions' aquatic resources and what they believe are appropriate norms shaping human behavior vis-a-vis these water resources, especially as they relate to ecosystem services, and linking these assessments to interventions designed to shift their planned behavior with regard to regional water resources. <br/><br/>The long-range objectives of this work are (1) to predict environmental impacts and associated losses of ecosystem values and services resulting from water quantity and quality alterations caused by future land development and climate changes; (2) to develop data collection protocols for evaluating community perceptions of the social impacts of climate induced biophysical impacts (participatory self-assessment); (3) to investigate possible social responses to predicted biophysical impacts and evaluate mechanisms for changing those responses; and (4) to develop policy scenarios for mitigating negative impacts that can in turn be evaluated by a diverse set of criteria. The immediate objectives of the 1-year planning grant are: (1) to refine research objectives and formulate key hypotheses, utilizing available databases and literature to inform in-depth analyses and dialogue by a team of researchers from the economic, social, and biophysical sciences; (2) to assess existing datasets for model inputs and calibration and verification efforts; (3) to test existing and hybrid biophysical and ecosystem impact modeling strategies on a few key watersheds; (4) to develop quantitative and qualitative social data collection tools for region-wide use; and (5) to develop a proposal for a full project. The corresponding planning grant activities will include (1) convening workshops with invited scientific experts and members of NGOs and state, federal and bi-national agencies; (2) hiring a post-doc to pull together existing models and databases to develop a predictive hydrologic-ecosystem model; and (3) developing and testing the social data collection tools. The data collection and modeling activities will be leveraged by ongoing work by the co-PIs on Great Lakes biogeochemical processes and human-ecological interactions. <br/><br/>Intellectual merit: This project builds upon their ability to understand and predict behavior of individual ecosystems and develops tools needed to predict responses of the regional landscape to future scenarios of altered climate and socioeconomic conditions. The models they develop will require innovations in integrating climate change and human activity drivers into coupled hydrologic-ecosystem services models. Their analysis of attitudes and beliefs surrounding human perception of the Great Lakes water resources will yield important insights into the norms that shape human activities with regard to these resources and how those norms can be shaped to solve water-related problems. <br/><br/>Broader impacts: This project will begin the training of one M.S. student, mentor one post-doctoral fellow, and develop an educational web-based module for use by the public and schools. The module will be disseminated through the co-PIs'ongoing, broad range of local, regional, and international K-12 water resource activities. Through MTU's graduate Water Resources Management Certificate, they will feature a series of team presentations in the graduate symposium on the climate change-related implications for Great Lakes management, policy, and human values. The project will develop new interdisciplinary connections between MTU departments and among multiple institutions. It will bring together academic researchers and policy makers to structure the research to produce outcomes useful for resource managers and public policy decision makers.

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Great Lakes - St. Lawrence Region.