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Engaging stakeholders across a socio-environmentally diverse network of water research sites in North and South America


Abstract and Figures

Maintaining and restoring freshwater ecosystem services in the face of local and global change requires adaptive research that effectively engages stakeholders. However, there is a lack of understanding and consensus in the research community regarding where, when, and which stakeholders should be engaged and what kind of researcher should do the engaging (e.g., physical, ecological, or social scientists). This paper explores stakeholder engagement across a developing network of aquatic research sites in North and South America with wide ranging cultural norms, social values, resource management paradigms, and eco-physical conditions. With seven sites in six countries, we found different degrees of engagement were explained by differences in the interests of the stakeholders given the history and perceived urgency of water resource problems as well as differences in the capacities of the site teams to effectively engage given their expertise and resources. We categorized engagement activities and applied Hurlbert and Gupta's split ladder of participation to better understand site differences and distill lessons learned for planning comparative socio-hydrological research and systematic evaluations of the effectiveness of stakeholder engagement approaches. We recommend research networks practice deliberate engagement of stakeholders that adaptively accounts for variations and changes in local socio-hydrologic conditions. This, in turn, requires further efforts to foster the development of well-integrated research teams that attract and retain researchers from multiple social science disciplines and enable training on effective engagement strategies for diverse conditions.
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Environmental Development xxx (xxxx) xxx
Please cite this article as: Robyn L. Smyth, Environmental Development,
Available online 15 October 2020
2211-4645/© 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
Engaging stakeholders across a socio-environmentally diverse
network of water research sites in North and South America
Robyn L. Smyth
, Uroosa Fatima
, Monique Segarra
, Lisa Borre
Mariana I. Zilio
, Brian Reid
, Stephanie Pincetl
, Anna Astorga
M. Andrea Huamantinco Cisneros
, Daniel Conde
, Thomas Harmon
Natalia Hoyos
, Jaime Escobar
, Juan Pablo Lozoya
, Gerardo M.E. Perillo
M. Cintia Piccolo
, James A. Rusak
, Maria I. Velez
Environmental and Urban Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, USA
Center for Environmental Policy, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, USA
Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, New York, USA
Instituto de Investigaciones Econ´
omicas y Sociales del Sur (UNS-CONICET), San Andr´
es 800 Altos de Palihue, Bahía Blanca, 8000, Buenos Aires,
Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas de la Patagonia, Universidad Austral de Chile, Chile
Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, UCLA, Chile
CONICETInstituto Argentino de Oceanografía, Florida 8000, Bahía Blanca, B8000BFW, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Departamento de Geografía y Turismo, Universidad Nacional del Sur, 12 de Octubre and San Juan, Bahía Blanca, B8000DIC, Buenos Aires,
Centro de Manejo Costero (CURE), Universidad de la República, Uruguay
Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering and Environmental Systems Graduate Program, University of California Merced, 5200 North Lake
Road, Merced, CA, USA, 95344
Departamento de Historia y Ciencias Sociales, Universidad del Norte, km 5 Via Puerto Colombia, Barranquilla, Colombia
Departamento de Ingeniería Civil y Ambiental, Universidad del Norte, km 5 Via Puerto Colombia, Barranquilla, Colombia
Center for Tropical Paleoecology and Archaeology, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Box 0843-03092, Balboa, Panama
Departamento de Geología, Universidad Nacional del Sur, Av. Alem 1253 2 do Cuerpo of 202, Bahía Blanca, B8000DIC, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Dorset Environmental Science Centre, 1026 Bellwood Acres Road, Dorset, ON, Canada, P0A 1E0
Department of Biology, Queens University, 116 Barrie Street, Kingston, ON, Canada, K7L 3N6
Department of Geology, University of Regina, Canada
Stakeholder engagement
Science outreach
Participatory research
Maintaining and restoring freshwater ecosystem services in the face of local and global change
requires adaptive research that effectively engages stakeholders. However, there is a lack of
understanding and consensus in the research community regarding where, when, and which
stakeholders should be engaged and what kind of researcher should do the engaging (e.g.,
physical, ecological, or social scientists). This paper explores stakeholder engagement across a
developing network of aquatic research sites in North and South America with wide ranging
* Corresponding author. Environmental and Urban Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, USA.
E-mail addresses: (R.L. Smyth), (U. Fatima), (M. Segarra), borrel@caryinstitute.
org (L. Borre), (M.I. Zilio), (B. Reid), (S. Pincetl), (A. Astorga), (M.A. Huamantinco Cisneros), (D. Conde), (T. Harmon), nbotero@uninorte. (N. Hoyos), (J. Escobar), (J.P. Lozoya), (G.M.E. Perillo), (M.C. Piccolo), (J.A. Rusak), (M.I. Velez).
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Environmental Development
journal homepage:
Received 2 November 2019; Received in revised form 2 October 2020; Accepted 6 October 2020
Environmental Development xxx (xxxx) xxx
cultural norms, social values, resource management paradigms, and eco-physical conditions. With
seven sites in six countries, we found different degrees of engagement were explained by dif-
ferences in the interests of the stakeholders given the history and perceived urgency of water
resource problems as well as differences in the capacities of the site teams to effectively engage
given their expertise and resources. We categorized engagement activities and applied Hurlbert
and Guptas split ladder of participation to better understand site differences and distill lessons
learned for planning comparative socio-hydrological research and systematic evaluations of the
effectiveness of stakeholder engagement approaches. We recommend research networks practice
deliberate engagement of stakeholders that adaptively accounts for variations and changes in
local socio-hydrologic conditions. This, in turn, requires further efforts to foster the development
of well-integrated research teams that attract and retain researchers from multiple social science
disciplines and enable training on effective engagement strategies for diverse conditions.
1. Introduction
Climate change and other human activities are exacerbating water resource management challenges in many communities by
increasing droughts and oods and accelerating water quality degradation with polluted runoff (Sivapalan et al., 2012; Xu et al.,
2018). To better address these and other complex socio-environmental problems, there has been a global shift towards participatory
approaches to resource management and decision making (Megdal et al., 2017; Sterling et al., 2017; Xue et al., 2015). With this shift in
management paradigm, there have been calls for researchers to increase stakeholder (SH) engagement and participation in envi-
ronmental research as well (Fischer et al., 2015; Stafford et al., 2010). Proponents argue that participatory research (research that
includes non-scientists) promotes collaboration amongst multiple SH groups, greater trust among SHs, and eventually more durable
and equitable solutions to socio-environmental challenges (Blackstock et al., 2007; Teng¨
o et al., 2014; Trimble and Berkes, 2013).
Reported benets of increased participation in research include (1) generation of results directly relevant to society and decision
makers, (2) enhanced communication of data and results to broader audiences, (3) increased stakeholder understanding of and trust in
science (4) active citizenship, and (5) increasing adaptive capacity (Barreteau et al., 2010; Blackstock et al., 2007). However, these
positive outcomes are not guaranteed and research teams face many challenges in incorporating non-scientists into the research
Poor outcomes to participatory processes are often attributed to poor planning and inadequate evaluation. This is in part due to a
lack of understanding amongst researchers increasingly expected to engage on how to design, implement, and evaluate participatory
research (Blackstock et al., 2007). Due to the added complexity, participatory research is associated with higher monetary, admin-
istrative, and opportunity costs and longer timelines for achieving results when compared to similar ‘experts onlyprojects (von Korff
et al., 2010; Kueffer et al., 2012; Luyet et al., 2012). Many participatory approaches require facilitators who spend considerable time
with the community, understanding their concerns and building trust. Due to limitations in time and budgets, researchers have to make
trade-offs between engaging SHs and achieving other research goals. All these factors (insufcient guidance and expertise, high costs,
and long timelines) can lead to poor execution that disillusions participants and risks their future participation (Blackstock et al., 2007;
von Korff et al., 2010; Luyet et al., 2012). This uncertainty raises questions for researchers of what method(s) of SH interaction to use,
when, and where. These determinations can be difcult to make for new research sites and/or for researchers new to engaging SHs.
Stakeholder engagement around water resources poses additional complications for aquatic scientists. Water resources have
multiple uses and watersheds often cross governance boundaries. Aquatic ecosystems, therefore, tend to have SHs operating at
multiple spatial scales and with varying degrees of knowledge and empowerment (e.g., state vs. municipal government, up vs.
downstream users, onsite users vs. offsite landowners). The challenges and complexities associated with engaging SHs in aquatic
ecosystem research requires careful planning, implementation and evaluation on the part of the research team to ensure that SH
willingness to participate in research and other participatory processes is maintained and improved (Barreteau et al., 2010; Xu et al.,
2018). Without this planning, SH disillusionment, a loss of trust and/or interest in participatory processes over time, can result from
the exclusion of already marginalized groups, empowerment of already inuential SHs, or involvement of SHs that are not repre-
sentative of the community (Blackstock et al., 2007; Luyet et al., 2012; Teng¨
o et al., 2014). Unclear or disputed objectives, unmet
expectations, and lack of sufcient control over the project outcomes can also lead to SH disillusionment and reluctance to accept
project outcomes (Barreteau et al., 2010; von Korff et al., 2010; Reed, 2008). Unsuccessful engagement can increase community
conict and is not only detrimental to the current project but may also negatively impact SH willingness to participate in future
participatory projects. These unintended outcomes necessitate a need to understand how to effectively engage diverse populations in
scientic research that informs societal issues (Fischer et al., 2015; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2017).
Coordinated research networks present an opportunity to improve understanding of what stakeholder engagement strategies work
under what conditions. However, the need for replication and cross-site comparison has to be balanced with the principle that will-
ingness to participate is a public good that researchers are responsible for maintaining through site specic actions that build trust
(Barreteau et al., 2010). Given this tension, we argue that research networks interested in engaging SHs in aquatic research need to
wade in carefully if they want to realize the benets of participation while avoiding the pitfalls. How should research networks balance
recommendations for site-specic engagement with the need to provide systematic understanding through replicated, cross-site
research? We analyze how this tension was navigated during a 5+year initiative to establish a coordinated research network to
examine climate and other risks to freshwater ecosystem services (ES) across diverse research sites in South and North America. The
R.L. Smyth et al.
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Sensing the AmericasFreshwater Ecosystem Risk (SAFER) sites represent a set of ‘most different casesmeaning that they vary signi-
cantly in terms of culture and patterns of governance, history of participation at the site, and the salience of threats to water resources
amongst SHs (Thomas, 2011). In addition, there were variations in the disciplinary expertise of site teams, resources for engagement,
including time and funding levels relative to the size of the watershed, and the extent of interactions between researchers and SHs prior
to SAFER. These differences in the capacity for SH engagement are also reected in outcomes.
Drawing on the literature on participation and SH engagement, we comparatively analyze these diverse cases, rst categorizing
engagement activities by a set of commonly-used degrees of participation (Arnstein, 1969; Blackstock et al., 2007; Luyet et al., 2012).
To explain differences across the network, we utilize the more nuanced split ladder of participation (Hurlbert and Gupta, 2015) to
visualize, compare, and contrast research sites. The split ladder is a diagnostic tool that enables teams to plan for appropriate
engagement by assessing when and if participation is likely to be productive or benecial at a given site. It highlights elements such as
the existing levels of trust, the complexity of the socio-hydrologic conditions, and the problem solving capacity of stakeholders and
research teams. Using this tool, we add to a growing body of research that questions normative assumptions that participation is an end
in and of itself, and more is better (Hurlbert and Gupta, 2015; Sterling et al., 2017; Young et al., 2013). Instead, we explore how the
socio-environmental conditions affect decisions about engagement approaches at the site and network scale. Finally, we discuss in-
ternal and external barriers to participatory engagement and lessons learned for responsibly advancing participatory cross-site
research that improves understanding of socio-hydrologic systems.
2. Methods
2.1. Research network description
The SAFER project created a collaborative research network of physical, ecological, and social scientists with the broad goal of
improving understanding of risks to aquatic ES across a broad socio-environmental gradient of sites in South and North America.
SAFER researchers hypothesized that climate change-related alterations in the hydrological cycle interact, at times in unexpected
ways, with multiple human stressors within the watershed to change aquatic ecosystem conditions and alter the ES derived from them
(Fig. 1). SAFER had two stated objectives, to (1) employ freshwater ecosystems as sentinelsof multiple interacting stressors and
assess risks to ES in the Americas and (2) determine management and mitigation strategies which are both technically and
economically feasible as well as culturally acceptable. This research involved deploying sensors to capture current data, gathering
historical data, developing models, and other research tasks that could be readily replicated across watersheds. It also required
Fig. 1. (a) Conceptual model of socio-hydrologic system hypothesized by SAFER researchers for guiding research and risk assessment. Solid red
arrows indicate anthropogenic stressors, purple arrow indicates weather patterns through which climate change is mediated, green arrows represent
the myriad of services people receive from aquatic ecosystems, and black dashed arrows represent current and future feedbacks from management
and mitigation actions. (b) number of researcher participants from different scientic disciplines across the SAFER network at the project
conclusion. (For interpretation of the references to colour in this gure legend, the reader is referred to the Web version of this article.)
R.L. Smyth et al.
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researchers to engage with SHs in order to understand how they perceive and value ES. Participatory methodologies, however, were
not replicable across sites for reasons revealed through the case study analysis presented.
The network was initiated in 2012 with seven watersheds that included large river basins, lakes, reservoirs, and coastal lagoons
from 35S to 45N latitude with climates ranging from tropical to sub-polar and humid to semi-arid and diverse socioeconomic and
cultural conditions (Table 1 and Appendix A). The research sites were assembled largely from pre-existing research sites and networks
(e.g., Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network) with some new research initiated in remote areas in Chilean Patagonia to extend
the gradient of socio-environmental conditions studied. The logistical challenges of employing methodologies that require SH
participation across research sites were not considered at the outset but rather discovered over the course of the project. From 2012 to
2018 researchers from across sites gathered 12 times per year to exchange ideas, data, and engagement practices, coordinate and
advance analyses, receive cross-disciplinary training, and generally familiarize themselves with each others research and sites. Multi-
disciplinary research occurring within the network included paleolimnology & climatology (Correa-Metrio et al., 2016; Restrepo et al.,
2019; Velez et al., 2014), climate variability (Aliaga et al., 2017; Brendel et al., 2017), limnology (Alfonso et al., 2015; Bohn et al.,
2016), ecology (Meerhoff et al., 2013; Rodríguez-Gallego et al., 2017), hydrobiology (Villamizar et al., 2014), watershed modeling
(Hoyos et al., 2019; Jepsen et al., 2018), and ecosystem service risk assessments (Harmon et al., 2018; Zilio et al., 2017). The nature of
research questions and methodologies pursued at the site-scale was inuenced by known data needs, expertise of the site team, and in
some cases, interests of local SHs. Each site team identied important ES and current and future threats to those services (see Table 1
and Harmon et al. (2018) with SH input where possible.
2.2. Split ladder analysis
We used surveys of network researchers, participant observation, and published literature to report, compare and contrast SH
engagement in research across the seven original SAFER sites. The goal was to understand the socio-hydrologic context at each site and
establish a baseline to facilitate planning for comparative research that engages SHs across diverse sites in the future. We collabo-
ratively developed a questionnaire on the practice of SH engagement during a SAFER project meeting in 2016 (see Table B1) that was
subsequently completed by each site team, in some cases with input from external collaborators that engage more directly with SHs.
Follow-up questions were circulated to all SAFER researchers with SurveyMonkey near the close of the project in November 2018.
Researcher responses were used along with peer-reviewed literature to contextualize each site by describing the ecosystem and ser-
vices provided, the climate and how it is changing, the primary economic activities in the watershed, and their impacts on local water
resources (Table 1). We then summarized the SH engagement at each site prior to and during the SAFER project and identied the
degree to which the site teams engaged different types of SHs using the widely adopted ladder of participation (Arnstein, 1969;
Barreteau et al., 2010; Luyet et al., 2012). The specic denitions of degrees of engagement used for this analysis are given in Table 2.
SHs are dened from the perspective of this research to be any institution, group or individual that is responsible for, interested in, or
impacted by the aquatic environment(s) under study. The research teams at each site identied relevant SHs at the start of the project
Table 1
Site characteristics for SAFER research sites, Lago Paloma Complex (LPC), La Salada (LS), Sauce Grande Basin (SGB), Laguna de Rocha (LdR), Ci´
Grande de Santa Marta (CGSM), San Joaquin River (SJR), and Muskoka River Watershed (MRW). Adjusted Human Water Stress (aHWS) is calculated
in Harmon et al. (2018).
4548S 7233W 3927S 6242W 3829S
3435S 5417W 1053N 7424W 3744N
River, lakes,
Lake River,
reservoir, lake
Coastal lagoon Coastal lagoon River,
River, lakes,
WS area (km
) 1500 9 4160 1312 4300 40,400 5600
Climate Temperate
Semi-arid Temperate Sub-tropical Tropical Semi-arid Temperate
(cm yr
82200 52 80 107 45270 15170 103
Less precip; more
Warmer temps;
more variability
temps; more
Sea level rise;
more storm surge
Less precip; sea
level rise
Warmer temps;
Pop. Density
<0.2 780 6 22 70 100 15
aHWS (01) 0.60 0.55 0.65 0.65 0.75 0.35 0.35
Ranching; shing;
Threats to ES Deforestation;
invasives; hydro-
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(if not before). At Laguna de Rocha (Uruguay) and La Salada (Argentina), SHs engaged prior to SAFER participated in identication of
additional SHs. For this report, site research teams and individuals self-reported the degree to which they engaged different SHs
relevant to their site and the barriers encountered. SH evaluations of engagement efforts have not yet been systematically conducted, a
shortcoming in project design and implementation discussed below.
To compare and contrast the conditions for engagement and enable informed decisions about the transferability of SH-dependent
methodologies and practices, we utilized the split ladder of participation (Hurlbert and Gupta, 2015). The split ladder creates 4
quadrants based on trust (horizontal axis) and participation (vertical axis) where the rungs on the original ladder of participation run
from the lower left quadrant 1 (low participation, low trust) to the upper right quadrant 3 (high participation, high trust) (see Fig. 2 in
Hurlbert and Gupta, 2015). To this, the split ladder adds the lower right quadrant 2 (low participation, high trust) where SH
participation may not add value, at least not relative to the costs of implementing a participatory process and the upper left quadrant 4
(high participation, low trust), where social conict and resource constraints have resulted in unstructured wickedproblems that are
not easy to resolve. To apply the split ladder, we made consensus judgments about the placement of each site along the axes of trust and
participation at the start and end of the SAFER project based on synthesized site history, conditions, and engagement outcomes.
Table 2
Summary of SH engagement activities by SAFER researchers (X) and their collaborators (C) across sites.
Planning process LPC LS SGB LdR CG
Formal SH identication conducted X X X C X X
Pre-planned process for engaging SHs X X C
Evaluation(s) of engagement by SHs conducted X C
1. Informative: researchers share research plans and/or ndings with SHs through written and/or oral communications
Informal discussions with SHs X X X X X X X
Distribution of informative material to SHs X X C X
Educational talks/seminars X X C X X
Other informative engagement X X X X
2. Consultative: researchers collect perspectives, opinions, suggestions and/or data about the ecosystem and/or research activities from SHs through
surveys, focus groups, public meetings, interviews or other formal or informal means
Ecosystem risk/services dened with SHs X X C
SHs surveyed C X X X
Focus group/workshop meetings X X X X C
Numeric dataset(s) provided by SH(s) X X
Local knowledge informs project design X X X X X X X
3. Collaborative: Stakeholders participate in one or more aspects of the research process including planning, implementation, and evaluation phases
SHs involved in project planning X X
Citizen science/monitoring program X X C
Other collaborative activities X X X X
4. Co-decisive: Researchers and SHs seek consensus on one or more aspects of the research agenda. SHs have some degree of decision-making authority
over the research process
Research agenda by consensus with SHs X C
Adaptive management practiced at site X X C
Co-management of the ecosystem X C
Adaptive governance practiced at site X
Table 3
Stakeholder identication and degree of engagement where 0 indicates present but not engaged and 15 refers to the degrees of engagement as
described in Table 2. ‘Cindicates SHs engaged by researchers collaborating with SAFER investigators and ‘naindicates SH group not present at the
Stakeholder category LPC LS SGB LdR CG
Other Researchers 2 na na 3 3 3 3
Residents 2 3 2 4 1 2 0
Local govt 2 3 1 4 C 2 3
Provincial/State Govt 2 na na 4 C 2 3
National Govt na na na 5 C 2 2
Lake/river Association(s) na 4 na 4 C 2 2
Environmental groups na na 2 3 C 1 3
Recreational users 2 0 2 2 C 2 0
Seasonal residents 2 na 1 1 na 0 0
Tourism interests 2 3 1 2 C 0 2
Fishing interests na na 1 4 C 0 0
Farmers (crops) na 1 0 1 C 0 na
Ranchers (livestock) 2 1 0 4 C 0 na
Forestry 2 na na 0 C 2 1
Water/energy agencies 2 0 0 na na 2 1
Transportation industry 0 na na na C 0 na
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3. Results
3.1. Research site assessments
The SAFER sites represent a diversity of inland watersheds (incorporating large river basins, coastal lagoons, lakes, and reservoirs)
spread across a wide range of biogeographic, climatic, and socio-economic contexts (Table 1 and Appendix A). Although comparative
research and risk assessments were the overarching goals of the network, it became evident that methodologies requiring SH
participation were not practically replicable across all sites due to the prevailing differences in the socio-cultural contexts for
engagement (i.e., capacity of the SHs to engage) as well as differences in the relative preparation and resources to start and maintain
SH engagement activities across sites (i.e., capacities of research teams to engage). We nd the split ladder helped characterize local
variations in socio-environmental conditions that were not discernible in metrics of ES risk calculated from global and national scale
data (see Harmon et al., 2018). For example, the adjusted Human Water Stress for the SAFER sites (given in Table 1), identies the
enaga Grande de Santa Marta (CGSM) as most at risk but more notably differentiates sites along a north/south gradient reecting
greater national investments in water security but not necessarily conditions at the watershed scale. Starting with the southernmost
site and progressing northward, the following case studies briey summarize the SAFER sites including the history of SH engagement
in water research and management, the research team at each site, and the engagement carried out during the SAFER project (Table 2)
in terms of degrees of engagement. To compare inclusivity of engagement, we identify broad categories of watershed SHs and the
degree to which they were engaged by site teams and collaborators (Table 3). This context is used to place each site on the split ladder
(Fig. 2).
3.1.1. Lago Paloma Complex, Chile (LPC)
Representing the more pristine end of the socio-environmental gradient (Table 1 and Fig. 3 in Harmon et al., 2018), the LPC in-
cludes headwater streams, glacial lakes, and braided tributaries of the Rio Ays´
en in Chilean Patagonia. Although much of the
watershed is within a National Forest Reserve, there is some degradation and soil erosion from land conversion to pasture. Still,
conicts over water resources and/or risks to ES are limited compared to other SAFER sites. There was occasional research conducted
in the area prior to SAFER (e.g., Meier et al., 2013), establishing a baseline for contact with local SHs. The SAFER team at LPC consisted
of two aquatic scientists in a region with limited university presence or other resources for recruiting or training students. At this
essentially new and relatively remote research site, SAFER researchers initiated a range of engagement activities to interest, educate,
Fig. 2. Categorizations of conditions for engaging stakeholders at SAFER sites on the Split Ladder of Participation (after Hurlbert and Gupta, 2015).
Four quadrants (Q1-Q4) are dened by gradients in trust (left to right) and participation (bottom to top). Solid lines indicate sites where SAFER
scientists are leading stakeholder engagement efforts while dashed arrows indicate sites where the primary efforts to engage stakeholders are
external to SAFER. Placements represent research consensus on site conditions at the start of the project and arrows indicate the direction in which
engagement efforts were headed at the close of the project.
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and build trust with SHs (Table 2). Engagement during SAFER has been largely informative and consultative, including communication
with local residents on oodplain research and coordination with regional agencies on invasive species management (Table 3). Citizen
science efforts, consisting of a lake monitoring program with instrumented buoys, interactions with rural schools, and development of
educational materials (see Appendix C), have been implemented intermittently but proved difcult to sustain due to limited human
resources and the challenges of remote and rural environments with low perceived risk to abundant water resources. Interviews of
local and regional SHs about climate change perceptions by a collaborating graduate student, however, revealed important local
knowledge of long-term changes in weather not captured by coarse meteorological monitoring in this mountainous region (Helman,
There were several reasons not to pursue high level SH engagement at LPC. A perceived power imbalance and complex diversity of
SHs separated by both distance (geographically onsite vs. offsite SHs) and class (local rural SHs, national and international landowners,
multinational energy companies with a major interest in water rights, and tourism sector) that make broad and simultaneous
participation logistically challenging and potentially impractical. Furthermore, LPC lacks an imminent threat around which to
formally engage SHs and sustain participation. Understanding threats to ES requires education on their very existence in this area. In
terms of the split ladder (Fig. 2), governmental decision-making is offsite at the regional level with local SHs having little ability to
inuence such decisions. Given the absence of urgent threats, LPC researchers are maintaining low-level contact and monitoring,
having adjusted the scale of operations (focusing on two individual lake basins and a small watershed contributing to local rural
potable water supply). Engagement in research at this site remains in the exploratory middle of the split ladder as research activities
have diversied to other sites with more emergent opportunities for SH work.
3.1.2. La Salada Lake, Argentina (LS)
La Salada, the smallest system in this study, is a shallow coastal lake used for economically-important tourism but threatened by
diversions and runoff from neighboring agriculture. The research team at LS is multi-disciplinary, including climatology, oceanog-
raphy, geology, environmental economics, limnology, biology, engineering and geography. Prior to the SAFER project, researchers
from Instituto Argentino de Oceanografía began engaging SHs with the initiation of research at LS in 2011. A citizen science approach
was used to deploy sensors on a lake buoy for research and education programs to increase local knowledge and enable ES protection
(Smyth et al., 2016). Citizen science was rst introduced to school children resulting in interactions among primary and secondary
school teachers, students, and researchers, which has resulted in students learning about environmental research and participating in
data collection (Smyth et al., 2016). During SAFER, the team set up a two-fold participatory study to identify and prioritize ecosystem
services relevant to local SHs at LS following the ES risk assessment approach developed for Laguna de Rocha, Uruguay (see Lozoya
et al., 2014), another SAFER site described below. The ES were pre-identied by a panel of physical and social scientists and then SHs
were invited to community workshops where they were asked to individually rank the ES as they perceive them (Zilio et al., 2017).
Maintenance of water quality received the highest priority by local SHs, likely due to the rapid proliferation of algae since 2008, which
can impair economically-important tourism (Zilio et al., 2017). When asked to evaluate changes in ES provision between an unusually
wet (2009) and dry (2015) year, only slight variations were reported, suggesting SHs are not yet perceiving differences, but this may
also be the result of management to maintain a consistent lake water level despite the amount of rainfall.
Over several years, resident SHs around LS have evolved into a neighborhood lake association that now carries out many aspects of
the lakes water quality research and management (excluding water diversion decisions made by the Corporation of the Colorado River
Valley) (Zilio et al., 2017). The enthusiasm for lake conservation by most local SHs has enabled high levels of engagement in envi-
ronmental research and management at LS. There is currently co-decisive engagement in research with a self-selected subset of SHs
that, together with researchers, design and implement lake research and monitoring (Tables 2 and 3). The citizen science activity has
been widely accepted by schools and students and signicantly contributed to increasing the environmental awareness in the local
community. With respect to the split ladder, both trust and participation increased at this site amongst the engaged SHs during SAFER
(Fig. 2). The challenges at this site are moderately structured in that there is uncertainty in future water quantity and quality and
limited resources for ecosystem-based management. While the SAFER team has achieved high levels of engagement with some SHs,
there is a need to broaden participation to include agricultural SHs who are only minimally engaged at this time (Table 3). Their
participation will likely be needed given the importance of water clarity for recreational tourism and the well-established adverse
effects of agricultural runoff on water quality. Further eutrophication or a change in water level could shift this site from quadrant 3 to
4 on the split ladder in the future.
3.1.3. Sauce Grande Basin, Argentina (SGB)
Flows from the eastern slopes of the Sierra de la Ventana, the Sauce Grande river is divided by a large drinking water reservoir
serving urban communities outside the watershed. Except for students, the research team for this site is the same as LS. The Community-
based Management of Environmental Challenges in Latin America project, funded by the European Commission, was the rst participatory
research initiative in the lower SGB (London et al., 2012) and constituted the starting point to current research initiatives in the area.
Due to the local perception that environmental conservation is inherently in opposition to agriculture, the research team anticipated
and experienced difculties engaging a large segment of relevant local SHs in water research. Separate workshops were planned for
decision-making and non-decision making SHs with non-decision making SHs invited through a locally-active non-governmental
organization, Ambiente Comarca. Several groups of off-site decision-making SHs were invited but did not participate in workshops.
Many of the agriculturists also did not participate (see Zilio et al., 2019).
Based on overall low participation and preliminary workshop ndings of skepticism and misunderstanding of climate data and
projections for the region (indicating low trust in science), SGB is in Q1 of the split ladder. The initial goal of SH engagement, to
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replicate the participatory approach employed successfully at LS, was revised to rst address the general lack of environmental/
climate literacy in the region through informative engagement to build capacity for future participatory research. In recent years,
national science policy in Argentina has shifted to emphasize integration between scientic results and policy applications. The sci-
entic community was, therefore, newly encouraged to engage with communities to promote social learning and during the last ve
years, the relationships between some SH groups (farmers and environmental groups) and scientists has improved in SGB (from the
perspective of researchers). Still, more work needs to be done to disseminate information to all SH groups before inclusive partici-
patory research can proceed at this site.
3.1.4. Laguna de Rocha, Uruguay (LdR)
Laguna de Rocha (LdR) is a subtropical lagoon recognized as an UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and Ramsar Wetland of International
Importance. LdR has a long and rich history of participatory management where SHs are organized into associations (e.g., shermen
association, cattle ranching society, tourism league) and represented on the Laguna de Rocha Local Advisory Committee (AC) initiated
in the 1990s and legally formalized in 2010 when the lagoon was included in the National System of Protected Areas (Fanning, 2012).
The AC has developed a management plan (Ministry of the Environment-MVOTMA Resolution 1030/2016) to address threats to the
lagoon (Fanning, 2012). SHs participate in data collection and some shers serve as rangers for the protected area. The
multi-disciplinary research team at LdR was well-established at the start of the SAFER project and includes ecologists, hydrologists,
anthropologists, sociologists, a lawyer and a land use planner. Researchers routinely exchange information with the AC and access SHs
for interviews and other research modalities through the AC. Researchers conducted a participatory prioritization of ES and risk
assessment (Lozoya et al., 2014) and planned an economic valuation study (Fanning, 2012) prior to SAFER.
Some of the challenges associated with engaging SHs in water research and management have been overcome with informative
outreach about ES, local knowledge integration, and trust built over time (>10 years). The inclusion of LdR in Uruguays nationally
protected areas is considered an important outcome and metric of success for the participatory efforts at this site, as well as the
participatory development of a protocol for the articial breaching of the lagoon sand barrier (Conde et al., 2019). Despite accrued
trust between scientists and SHs, differences remain with respect to climate change. LdR researchers nd SHs generally perceive less
climate risk than what is forecast by scientists (Lozoya et al., 2014). Overall, researchers leverage the successful participatory man-
agement structure to engage SHs broadly and to a relatively high degree (Tables 2 and 3). Despite efforts to engage equally, researchers
reported shers were more difcult to engage than other SHs. LdR researchers aim to increase engagement further by including SH
vision and interests in the design of future research projects more than they have in past projects where SHs have generally played a
consultative or collaborative role. The adaptive, participatory structure already in place at LdR reects high trust and participation
(Q3). During SAFER, LdR researchers were generally able to seek feedback and achieve consensus with other SHs as needed.
3.1.5. Ci´
enaga Grande de Santa Marta, Colombia (CGSM)
Colombias largest coastal lagoon and mangrove ecosystem, CGSM, like LdR, is a Ramsar Wetland and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The production of bananas and palm oil are the predominant economic activities in the area, and irrigation needs are prioritized over
other water uses, leaving local residents dependent upon sh production which is vulnerable during periods of low precipitation
(Vilardy and Gonz´
alez, 2011). Since the 1950s there has been social conict over ES lost to degradation from reduced freshwater ows.
In response, an ambitious restoration project was launched in 1992 by the national and regional government, with funding from the
German government, aimed at restoring the hydrology and biotic resources, and promoting social development and institutional
capacity (Botero and Salzwedel, 1999). The restoration project nished in 2001, but there has been a lack of maintenance in the
hydraulic infrastructure and recent degradation of mangrove and sh resources due to increased salinity. Importantly, a lack of
institutional response to the presence of illegal armed groups in the 1990s (guerrillas) and 2000s (paramilitaries) has exacerbated the
environmental and social crises in the region (Vilardy and Gonz´
alez, 2011). Governmental resources for ecosystem management were
minimal and largely provided by international organizations with agendas that may not have aligned with local SHs (Ramirez, 2016).
However, a large bloom event in 2014 led to renewed government action including the recent formation of a participatory initiative
called ¡Escucha la Ci´
enaga! (la Ci´
enaga, 2018), where consensus is being sought but remains elusive (S. Vilardy pers. com.).
In addition to regional, national, and international institutional actors with diverging interests, there are two main SHs at CGSM,
the local inhabitants living around the lagoon with little decision-making power and agricultural land owners who live outside the
watershed. As at LPC, this dichotomy makes broad SH engagement difcult at this site. The SAFER team at CGSM consists of pale-
olimnologists, a physical geographer and a hydrologist. They have consulted and initiated collaboration with marine biologist Sandra
Vilardy who has been engaged in ES valuation and other socio-environmental research in the watershed for more than ten years (e.g.,
Vilardy et al., 2012, 2011). Prior research on perceptions of ES and climate change risk show some divergence between scientists and
the public. SHs identied more ES than scientists based on their local knowledge and use of the site. With respect to climate change,
scientists warn of marine transgression due to sea level rise while locals attribute coastal erosion and increasing salinity to freshwater
diversions upstream and do not identify climate change as a risk (Vilardy et al., 2012). Other researchers at INVEMAR (a Colombian
institute for marine research) have developed citizen science initiatives to monitor sheries with the local inhabitants. Lacking
expertise and resources for high level SH engagement, the SAFER team at this site has engaged informally with SHs during the course of
research and focused on developing collaboration with researchers external to SAFER that have already established trust with SHs to
provide social perspectives and information relevant to SAFERs research questions. Based on the work prior and external to SAFER,
CGSM can be characterized as low trust and minimal participation on the split ladder (Fig. 2). Efforts to achieve higher degrees of
participation at this site would likely only serve to push it further into the upper left Q4, the domain of wicked problems.
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3.1.6. San Joaquin River, USA (SJR)
Historically, the San Joaquin River (SJR) and its tributaries owed from the Sierra Nevada Mountains through the Central Valley to
the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta. Water scarcity in SJR is a long-standing regional issue. Institutional SHs from the public and private
sectors with both economic and non-economic interests are well-identied and included in the on-going, legally-mandated water
management efforts. Upstream of the delta, a largely technocratic restoration effort is managed by San Joaquin River Restoration
Program (SJRRP) under the 2009 San Joaquin River Restoration Settlement Act. SJRRPs two goals are to restore and maintain sh
populations in the main stem of the river and reduce adverse water supply impacts. These goals represent consensus reached through
long legal battles amongst SHs that will be difcult, if not impossible, to achieve, given the climatological constraints on the water
supply. This duality creates a complex setting for engaging potentially fatigued SH in water research.
The SAFER team at SJR consists of one environmental engineering and one economics professor and graduate students, and is
primarily focused on modeling hydrology and water quality with existing and future water management constraints and climate
scenarios. There is not a well-integrated social scientist on the SJR team. However, the prominence of the tensions around the SJR
means that the social/political issues are well-known and widely discussed in the press and beyond. With SAFER grant resources
disproportionately distributed to South American sites, there was little capacity for high level engagement at SJR. SAFER researchers
are engaged with federal agencies and some water utilities (primarily for acquiring data for models), bringing a water engineering
perspective to the board of the SJR Conservation and Trust, and conducting informative outreach activities with watershed advocacy
groups, recreational users and other interested citizens (Tables 2 and 3). Most of those attending educational workshops have an a
priori interest in the environment, suggesting strategies are needed to broaden the scope of SH engagement to include other relevant
SH groups, but based upon the site history that is likely to be challenging.
With competing demands for very scarce water, SJR has long been a site of conict resulting generally in low trust amongst SHs.
During the extended legal battle between environmental groups and regulatory agencies, there was high participation that could be
characterized as debate diverging values (a rung in Q4), but today, with a consensus legal settlement in place and legislation to guide and
fund implementation, SJR is managed more or less technocratically by the SJRRP with contributions from organized SH groups.
Despite the agreement amongst key SH groups, the scientic reality is that in dry years, there will likely be insufcient water to meet
both irrigation and restoration demands and therefore we are characterizing SJR as being in a state of placation in Q1 (Fig. 2). With
limited expertise and resources to carry out participatory engagement with a fatigued (and potentially disillusioned) SH community
spread over a large geographic area, the site team conducted informative engagement with interested SH and participated con-
sultatively with institutional SH engaged in conservation, restoration, and education to help build realistic expectations of water
resource challenges (Tables 2 and 3). Finally, the state has required SH driven negotiations to manage Californias largely unadju-
dicated groundwater basins. This will add an additional level of complexity to the management of the SJR and the engagement of SHs
that are multiple, layered, and polarized, creating the possibility that participatory conditions will return to Q4.
3.1.7. Muskoka River Watershed, Canada (MRW)
The Muskoka River originates in Ontarios Algonquin Provincial Park highlands and ows through a formerly glaciated landscape
with abundant lakes and wetlands into Lake Huron. Outdoor-oriented tourism is currently the primary economic driver of the region
with the summer population of 81,907 exceeding the regions 60,599 permanent residents (District of Muskoka, 2018). Thus, there are
strong economic incentives to maintain environmental quality but also recreational and other activities that can lead to degradation.
The region has a developed environmental civic society that includes several lake associations, non-governmental groups, and an
active watershed council, the Muskoka Watershed Council. The watershed plan, created in 2006, calls for engaging SHs to voice
concerns regarding the local freshwater resources and increase support for environmental conservation (Veale, 2010). The large
percentage of seasonal residents may present challenges to participatory research and management (Veale, 2010). The SAFER team at
MRW consisted of a government research limnologist and a Ph.D. student focused on ecological modeling. As with SJR, there was no
social scientist integrated into the research team and limited resources for SAFER-specic engagement of SHs. Researchers informally
identied relevant SHs and utilized information gathered from SHs for other projects to inform SAFER research at MRW. Overall,
engagement was primarily informative and consultative due to a lack of time and expertise to develop, lead, and analyze participatory
activities at this site. With no urgent conicts over water resources, MRW is managed primarily technocratically in an environment of
moderate to high trust in institutions and moderate engagement of self-organizing SH groups and is therefore placed in Q2 on the split
ladder with engagement efforts emphasizing education of both SH and researchers (Fig. 2). Capacity building for participatory
research is important at this site where emerging threats, such as increasing algae blooms, are fostering greater participation (e.g.,
formation of an algae working group across lake associations).
3.2. Applying the split ladder
We used the split ladder to visualize differences in site context and explain variations in the degree and breadth of SH engagement
across sites. The split ladder categorizes sites based on trust (low to high from left to right) and participation (low to high from bottom
to top) in resource management/governance. The placements on the split ladder reect consensus judgments amongst SAFER re-
searchers about the conditions for SH participation at each site. The four sites with on-going management efforts were in the four
different quadrants of the split ladder at the start of SAFER (Fig. 2). We located SJR in Q1 (low participation & low trust) to convey the
expectation that SHs may be fatigued by long legal battles or content with recent signs of success in recovering salmon. Hydro-climatic
modeling suggests these successes will be difcult to sustain over the long-term given the economic and climatological constraints on
the regions water resources. Education and outreach were therefore the predominant mode of engagement. At MRW, a tourism-based
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region of Canada with abundant water resources and low population pressure, there is largely technocratic management with rela-
tively high trust in governance (Q2), mainly due to the absence of evident conict among water users. In addition, generating and
sustaining SH participation is somewhat complicated by the large seasonal population in the region. SAFER researchers at MRW have
also focused on educational engagement, particularly around emerging threats where calls for participation in decision making are
likely to increase over time. CGSM is a highly impacted tropical lagoon where efforts to collectively manage have been difcult to
sustain given long-term political instability and SH inequality, thus characterized by high participation but low trust (Q4). At this site,
SAFER researchers are proceeding slowly, respecting and engaging with researchers who have established trust with SHs over time. At
LdR where there is high trust and participation (Q3), the SAFER project contributed to advancing the ongoing adaptive co-
management approach that has evolved over decades of communication and collaboration. In some ways, LdR represents a partici-
patory model for other sites in the network to emulate, while recognizing the timelines and resources required to do so are generally
beyond the scope of a single grant.
At the other three sites (LS, SGB, LPC), there had been less management and engagement prior to SAFER. These sites, by default,
started closer to the middle of the ladder and moved out in different directions due to a combination of factors (Fig. 2). The research
team is largely the same for sites in Argentina (LS, SGB). Adapting the LdR approach, this well-integrated multidisciplinary team
effectively engaged the community around a small, tourism-oriented lake to take responsibility for water quality monitoring and
maintenance (Q3). They had less success, however, in engaging SHs in the agriculturally-dominated SGB (Q1). At the latter site, re-
searchersemphasis remained on informative engagement to build trust and scientic literacy after preliminary results showed
widespread mis-understandings about climate risks to local water resources (Zilio et al., 2019). At LPC, there is low population density,
near-pristine water resources and tourism based on y shing. Although water resources are economically important at this site, the
lack of urgent threats presents challenges to creating and sustaining engagement in water research or participation in risk assessments
to get ahead of potential problems. Furthermore, participation in resource management is culturally not the norm in Chile (Q2). At this
site, researchers have focused on listening to SHs and making educational and outreach materials specic to the local aquatic
ecosystem to facilitate social learning (see Appendix C).
As suggested by Hurlbert and Gupta (2015), we nd the split ladder has potential as a diagnostictool. The distribution of sites in
the quadrants informs the nature of engagement that is appropriate. Sites on the left (Q1 and Q4) lack sufcient trust for highly
participatory methodologies. At sites with low trust, researchers may rst have to work towards building or rebuilding local trust in
science and/or policy, and integrating local knowledge and concerns into research activities before participatory research method-
ologies can be applied. In polarized situations, such as SJR and CGSM, this can take time, special expertise, and signicant resource
commitments that were beyond the scope of this grant. These are also the geographically largest of the SAFER watersheds. It may be
prudent and necessary to conduct comparative research and engagement in representative sub-watersheds to keep the scale of the
effort comparable to other sites. For sites in Q2, highly participatory engagement may be hard to establish or sustain if SHs are not
empowered or concerned with decision making. At remote sites like LPC, with no urgent threat or culture of engagement, we argue
informative and consultative engagement is the best practice.
In the interest of maintaining SH willingness to participate as a public good, researchers should be cautious about implementing
highly participatory methodologies for sites outside Q3. Communities that have experienced successful SH engagement in the past may
be more willing to participate in future projects, as in the case of LdR and LS. For sites in Q1, Q2, and Q4, highly collaborative
engagement activities may be counterproductive, creating resistance, mistrust, disillusionment, or conict amongst SHs. We suggest
educational, informative, and consultative activities that aim towards the neutral center of the split ladder are advisable. Given the
trajectory of water resource management towards participation and integration, it is important for researchers to engage SHs in an
informed way that encourages positive outcomes for the SHs, not just the researchers (Barreteau et al., 2010). By promoting
consideration of the context for engagement, the quadrants of the split ladder may prove a useful tool in determining sites that are
suitable for comparative engagement methodologies. We recommend the split ladder Hurlbert and Gupta (2015) to help research
networks understand differences in the social dimensions of the research sites and plan engagement activities accordingly and
3.3. Barriers to engagement
The sociocultural context and capacities for engaging SHs in research varied across the SAFER sites at the start of the project in a
manner that precluded the replication of research methodologies requiring SH participation across the network. Instead, researchers at
each site engaged SHs on a site by site basis with informal knowledge transfer about practice and progress across the network during
meetings and site visits. Categorizing the engagement activities by degree on the traditional ladder of participation (Table 2), there was
informative and consultative engagement to promote scientic literacy and enable some local knowledge integration into research
across all sites. Only a few of the sites, however, were able to engage in participatory (collaborative and higher) activities with local
SHs by the end of the project (Tables 2 and 3). The highest levels and broadest SH engagement occurred at LdR where SAFER re-
searchers were already involved in a long-standing, adaptive ecosystem co-management program with established trust and a
participatory ES risk assessment already underway at the start of SAFER (Lozoya et al., 2014). Following and adapting the ES risk
assessment approach used at LdR (Lozoya et al., 2014), high levels of engagement were achieved at LS in a relatively short period of
time (Zilio et al., 2017). LS is in an area economicallydependent upon recreational tourism and is by far the smallest water body in this
study. Overall, conditions were favorable for engagement at LS with both willing SHs and a well-resourced multidisciplinary team in
place. At other sites, smaller research teams encountered more complicated or unfavorable conditions for engaging SHs in research.
Some teams (CGSM, MRW, SJR) sought collaboration with social scientists already engaging SHs in the watershed to bring social
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perspectives to SAFER research and risk assessments. This approach respects the notion that engagement is a public good that needs to
be maintained but may limit the application of cross-site methodologies.
With the split ladder framework, we identied several external factors inuencing the degree and breadth of engagement across
sites. SH willingness to participate was inuenced by the predominant economic activities in the watershed, perceived threats to water
resources, and history and culture of engagement, including the relative empowerment of the SHs in decision making. There was some
form of agricultural production or forestry in all the study watersheds. At sites with large-scale irrigated agriculture (SJR, CGSM, SGB)
ES are already challenging to maintain. In the face of climate change, water scarcity is likely to intensify at these sites as well as at LS.
Water scarcity creates difcult conditions for inclusive engagement. Water quality is also impacted by agriculture with eutrophication
and increasing harmful algal blooms reported at several sites (LS, LdR, CGSM). Agricultural SHs were difcult to engage in water
research across sites, a situation that merits focused attention and new strategies in subsequent studies given the importance of
agricultural SHs to sustainable water management. In contrast, at sites where tourism is economically important (MRW, LS, LPC, LdR),
water quality is a high priority for SHs who derive economic and other benets from maintaining and/or improving aquatic envi-
ronments. Across sites, researchers noted SHs were willing to engage with research teams when threats to water were visible, either
from algae blooms or diminishing water availability. When threats to ES were not apparent, SHs were less interested in collaborating
with researchers and engagement was difcult to maintain (LPC, SGB). At LS with both tourism and agriculture, the threat of declining
water quality appeared to be an important motivator of the SHs engaged by researchers.
At sites with complicated histories of unsatisfactory engagement or no empowerment in decision making (SJR, CGSM, LPC), re-
searchers had to engage with caution. Social inequalities amongst SHs were noted as a barrier at LPC, LdR, CGSM, SGB and SJR.
Particularly at sites in South America, there is a dichotomy between (disempowered) local SHs dependent upon the ecosystem for
livelihoods and off-site landowners or government entities with decision-making authority in the watershed. These power differences
complicate broad and integrated SH engagement. Differences in power and voice among SHs is also an important consideration at SJR
where the economic interests of agriculture have tended to prevail and SH fatigue is likely.
In addition to the variety of challenges presented by the gradient of socio-environmental conditions in the SAFER network, there
were also differences in the capacities of the site teams to engage SHs and build trust along the way. When surveyed at the close of the
project, the top three barriers to SH engagement identied by SAFER researchers pertained to internal team capacity: disciplinary
expertise, experience, time, and people to effectively engage SHs and collect pertinent social data (Fig. 3). Lack of social science
collaborators was a closely related barrier at many sites. At the remote LPC with no pressing social conict, nding a social scientist
willing to participate was difcult and constrained the capacity for social science data collection. Despite barriers encountered, 77% of
SAFER researchers reported they plan to continue to engage SHs in research and 93% reported greater appreciation for methodologies
outside their discipline at the end of the project. Enabling comparative socio-hydrological research will require more training and
resources for building well-integrated, balanced, and productive multidisciplinary teams, as discussed below.
4. Discussion
Integrated understanding of socio-hydrologic systems is a challenging but important goal for supporting water security (Sivapalan
et al., 2012; Xu et al., 2018) and sustaining aquatic ES (Baron et al., 2002). However, it is important to recognize that research
methodologies requiring SH participation are not as readily replicated across sites as are studies of a geological or ecological nature.
Human behavior, including willingness to participate in research activities, is highly contingent and cultural (Enserink et al., 2007;
Reed, 2008; Rowe and Frewer, 2004). The SAFER network coalesced around the overarching goal of comparing risks to water re-
sources across broad hydrologic and social gradients. A quantitative analysis using available climatic, watershed, and socioeconomic
indicators to characterize threats to aquatic ES across SAFER sites noted the potential limits of national-scale governance and
Fig. 3. Barriers to stakeholder engagement identied by SAFER researchers.
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socioeconomic indicators to reect the socio-environmental conditions at the local watershed scale, particularly in rural regions
(Harmon et al., 2018). Here we show that in practice there are many barriers to engaging SHs and generating relevant social data at the
watershed scale in a manner that is comparable across sites. We know local culture and governance patterns impact the success of
participatory processes but the implications for the design of participatory experiments across research networks remains unclear.
The SAFER sites reect some of the diversity of freshwater ecosystems across the Americas from socio-economic, ecological, and
climatological perspectives (Harmon et al., 2018). Ranging from relatively unimpacted LPC in Chile where engagement in research and
resource management is uncommon to SJR in California where climate change is exacerbating long-standing social conict over scarce
water resources, this diversity in sites presents challenges and opportunities in conducting comparative research including SHs. We
found the split ladder of participation to be a useful tool for considering the history of engagement, trust, and otherwise diagnosing
the conditions for SH engagement in research and risk assessment. It is important for multi-disciplinary research networks to expect
site-to-site differences when planning comparative methodologies that require SH participation and recruit and integrate researchers
from relevant social science disciplines into site teams (Ban et al., 2013; Bennett et al., 2017; Xu et al., 2018).
4.1. Lessons learned
Our qualitative analysis indicates that at several sites in the SAFER network, high degrees of engagement were not practical or
appropriate in the near-term, especially in places where there is existing low trust (SJR, CGSM) or no tradition of civic engagement
activities in resource management and research (LPC). At such sites, informative and consultative engagement to facilitate knowledge
integration and social capacity building are, we argue, appropriate and necessary rst steps to enable meaningful participation in the
future and avoid negative outcomes. Several site teams emphasized the need to simply listen to SHs, especially those disempowered by
decision-making structures. The split ladder framework led us to the identication of two main lessons learned related to the transition
from low-trust to high-trust environments where desirable participatory outcomes are more likely.
1. Evaluate and adapt research engagement activities to local site conditions
Viewing SH willingness to participate as a public goodto be cultivated by the (self-identied) participatory research community
means that project success is determined, at least in this regard, by the state of mind of the participants at the end of the project; if
participants are happy, it is a positive outcome and vice versa. Unfortunately, it can be difcult for researchers to know which of the
many participatory mechanisms will yield satised SHs and/or meaningful results. There is little known about transferability of ap-
proaches across sites or how to select and adapt an existing framework to a particular site in order to achieve the benets of
participatory research while avoiding the pitfalls (Barreteau et al., 2010; Blackstock et al., 2007; Enserink et al., 2007). Furthermore,
the cultural and socioeconomic dimensions of successful participation are not fully understood nor are the conditions that lead to
favorable social learning and better decision making through participatory methods versus other less costly and time consuming
approaches (Hurlbert and Gupta, 2015; von Korff et al., 2010; Reed, 2008). The timelines for responsibly engaging and developing
relationships with SHs are unknown and difcult to predict a priori. This creates a challenge for the replication of SH-dependent
methodologies that should be approached with careful planning utilizing the split ladder or alternative framework that seeks to
elucidate the conditions for engagement to the entire research team (not just the social scientists). Implementation should be done in
an adaptive manner with explicit evaluations and adjustments at key points in the process. Researchers should ensure that dis-
empowered SHs are included to reduce marginalization and promote the integration of previously missing perspectives into the
collective understanding (von Korff et al., 2010; Luyet et al., 2012; Sterling et al., 2017). The integration of previously sidelined SH
narratives can allow relevant parties to identify groups that exhibit high vulnerability or other barriers to participation and enable the
creation of targeted policies that equalize representation (Luyet et al., 2012; Sterling et al., 2017). We conclude that it is important for
research networks to consider site to site variability in the context for interacting with SHs across research sites early on and to develop
comparative research objectives, timelines, and adaptive, cyclic frameworks that are sufciently exible to allow for SH engagement to
develop constructively at each site.
2. Build research teams for socio-hydrological research
The challenge of recruiting and integrating social scientists into ecosystem science projects is not unique to SAFER. The need to
reframe research questions and practice to attract and retain social science collaborators has been noted by others studying conser-
vation biology, water, and other complex human-natural systems (e.g., Ban et al., 2013; Bennett et al., 2017; Fischer et al., 2015; Xu
et al., 2018). To consolidate lessons learned and improve guidance about the appropriateness and transferability of engagement ap-
proaches, there is a need for greater participation of social scientists of many varieties to answer interdisciplinary research questions
and evaluate effectiveness of participatory approaches. We recommend exible and adaptive approaches that treat engagement as an
on-going, cyclical process, that is periodically evaluated by both researchers and SHs (Mott Lacroix and Megdal, 2016; Sterling et al.,
2017) and not constrained to a particular grant timeline. For both new and pre-existing research sites, different conditions for SH
engagement should be anticipated and carefully considered in the design of participatory methodologies to avoid negative outcomes
for SHs and researchers. The SAFER network experience reinforces previous ndings that engagement is site specic and time is
needed to build trust and facilitate positive SH interactions. Replication is challenging. Research networks, therefore, need more time
and resources to learn to communicate effectively (Read et al., 2016), understand site differences and develop, to the extent practical,
common protocols for engaging SHs in a way that enables robust comparisons while building public trust in participation. Additional
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investments in tools and strategies, evaluation protocols, and interdisciplinary team training are needed to enable the participatory SH
engagement in research and is required to answer pressing questions about the coupled human-natural water cycle (Xu et al., 2018).
Engaging stakeholders in water research is critically important for generating policy-relevant science and building resilience in
aquatic ecosystems. However, SH participation is also an uncertain enterprise that is inherently resource and time intensive with some
methodologies requiring specialized expertise that may not be available at all research sites. As research networks advance questions
about complex socio-hydrological systems that call for SH participation, effective cross-disciplinary communication and careful
planning are required to balance the goal of positive SH outcomes with other research interests on grant-determined timelines.
Proactive application of tools like the split ladder can help research teams and networks nd this balance by clarifying differences in
the conditions for engaging SHs across sites and deploying resources and methodologies accordingly.
Author contribution statement
The study was conceptualized by RLS, LB, SP, MIZ, BR, MAHC, DC, TH, NH, JE, GMEP, MCP, JAR and MV at a SAFER PI meeting in
April 2016; qualitative data was provided by BR, MIZ, AA, MAHC, DC, TH, NH, JE, JPL, GMEP, MCP, JAR, MV; case study analysis was
conducted by UF, RLS, MS, and LB; Writing-Original Draft Preparation by RLS, UF, MS, LB, SP, BR; Writing-Review & Editing by all
authors. Funding Acquisition and project administration by GMEP, MV, DC, TH, JE, MCP, BR, JAR, MIZ.
Declaration of competing interest
The authors declare that they have no known competing nancial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to
inuence the work reported in this paper.
We acknowledge collaborators, SHs, and students for their participation in the work that made this study possible and the helpful
feedback of anonymous reviewers. This research was funded by the Inter American Institute for Global Change Research (IAI) CRN
3038 to establish the SAFER network and U.S. National Science Foundation Award #1336839 to TH. The views and opinions held in
this article do not necessarily reect those of the funding agency for this research. We also wish to acknowledge the Global Lake
Ecological Observatory Network for helping to facilitate this collaboration and nancial support under NSF Awards #113753,
#1137327, #1702991. NH was partially funded by a Fulbright Visiting Scholar fellowship from the Fulbright Commission of
Colombia. JE and NH were partially funded by The Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships (QES), a partnership
among Universities in Canada, the Rideau Hall Foundation (RHF), Community Foundations of Canada (CFC). The QES-AS is made
possible with nancial support from IDRC and SSHRC.
Appendix A. Socio-hydrological context and climate projections for each site
Lago Paloma Complex, Chile (LPC)
The LPC includes oligotrophic glacial-tectonic lakes, mountain streams, and braided rivers in the headwaters of the Rio Blanco sub-
watershed of the Rio Ays´
en, Chilean Patagonia. Climate is temperate sub-Antarctic, ranging from deciduous to evergreen temperate
rain forest biomes along very short distances. Climatic information and climate change projections are both confounded by uncertainty
for this topographically varied terrain (Lenaerts et al., 2014; Vera et al., 2006); 30% reductions in precipitation have been observed at
the mouth of the Ays´
en watershed, and changes in seasonality are expected (Aravena and Luckman, 2009) with anomalously moderate
temperature increases (Garreaud et al., 2013). The region has experienced decreased snowpack according to general local observations
(Helman, 2015; P´
erez et al., 2018) and lakes rivers and streams have all seen record low water levels (B. Reid pers. obs) following
convergence of cyclic hydrologic drivers El Ni˜
no, Antarctic Oscillation (Garreaud, 2018). High water clarity driven by stable lake
ows, together with access from urban areas provides regionally-important tourism and recreational services with economic benets
for some local residents. The site has extremely low population density, signicant intact headwaters and (mapped in Astorga et al.,
2018), falling within National Forest Reserve. However, wildres during recent colonization (194060s) has resulted in massive soil
loss and permanent vegetation change for valley walls, and conversion of valleys to pasture. Other threats include rewood cutting,
spread of invasive species, and potential hydropower development, the latter is conictive in the sense of governance (Bauer, 1997)
and conict over water rights.
La Salada Lake, Argentina (LS)
La Salada Lake is a shallow, saline lake located in the south of the Buenos Aires Province, 57 km from the coast and 14 m above sea
level. The lake has no surface outlet and is naturally mesotrophic. In terms of water quality, it responds quickly to environmental and
anthropogenic stresses due to its large surface area to volume ratio (Alfonso et al., 2015). It is in a semi-arid climate, experiencing
decadal variation in wet and dry periods and an increase of 0.7 C in average annual temperature over the last 50 years (Aliaga et al.,
2016). The watershed is sparsely populated and water-oriented tourism (shing, swimming, water sports, bird watching) is the main
economic driver followed by cattle ranching and agriculture requiring irrigation and fertilizer application. Given tourism is the main
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Environmental Development xxx (xxxx) xxx
economic driver around LS, water resources are important to local SHs. The Corporation of the Colorado River Valley, the authority
responsible for managing water for irrigation, currently controls the lake level through two gate-controlled channels from the Colorado
river such that the lake level is maintained for recreational activities over irrigation needs (Zilio et al., 2017). There is concern amongst
researchers and SHs that additional water control during droughts and oods could exacerbate lake drying and lakeshore erosion,
respectively. Eutrophication from agricultural runoff is also a concern as this could lead to a decline in recreational activity in response
to blooms (Smyth et al., 2016).
Sauce Grande Basin, Argentina (SGB)
The Sauce Grande river originates from the eastern slopes of the Sierra de la Ventana Range in the southwest of the Buenos Aires
Province, Argentina and ows into the Atlantic Ocean. The regional climate is temperate and characterized by wet and dry periods
(Aliaga et al., 2017; Bohn et al., 2011). The Paso de las Piedras reservoir was built in the 1970s to supply drinking water to Bahía
Blanca and Punta Alta cities (nearly 360,000 inhabitants, both located outside the basin). The reservoir divides the watershed into the
upper basin (highlands to the dam), the middle basin, (reservoir to Sauce Grande shallow lake), and the lower basin (lake to the estuary
where the river discharges into the Atlantic Ocean) (Gil, 2010; Zilio et al., 2019). Different natural environments (mountains, plains,
lakes, and estuary) offer several opportunities for tourism across the watershed. Climate projections predict a slow but steady increase
in temperature and precipitation uctuations in the area (Aliaga et al., 2016). The basin provides a range of ecosystem services
including irrigation, drinking water, sewage disposal, and various recreational activities like sport shing and swimming. Prominent
economic activities of the region include agriculture and tourism. Production is mainly staple crops (soybeans, corn, wheat, and
sunower) and livestock (cattle and sheep) with recent diversication to include olive growing, winemaking, and aromatic crops (Zilio
et al., 2019). In the Buenos Aires province, the Water Code (Law 12.257/99) establishes a regime of protection, conservation, and
management conducted by the provincial Water Authority. Users must obtain a permit from the Water Authority to carry out surface or
underground extraction (Zilio et al., 2019). Nevertheless, population growth and recurring droughts together have greatly increased
water demands on the site and have seriously impacted the local water resources (Casado et al., 2016).
Laguna de Rocha, Uruguay (LdR)
Laguna de Rocha (LdR) is a subtropical lagoon on the Atlantic coast and arguably the most studied aquatic ecosystem in Uruguay.
The northern area of the lagoon is dominated by freshwater discharge from the watershed and the southern area is highly inuenced by
the ocean through a channel that is opened periodically, both naturally and articially, and results in salinity ranging from freshwater
to marine conditions. Its unique geological characteristics and complex physiochemical make-up result in an area of high primary
productivity (Alonso et al., 2013; Bonilla et al., 2006). LdR has been a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve since 1976 and was added to Ramsar
Convention on Wetlands of International Importance in 2015. The most important ES in the region are artisanal sh and natural shrimp
production, erosion and ood protection, water quality maintenance, and recreational and cultural activities (Fanning, 2012; Lozoya
et al., 2014; Nin, 2013). Since the 1990s, land use in the LdR watershed has been dominated by cattle grazing and intensive agriculture.
In the coastal zone, urbanization for tourism is increasing, with private property invading natural and fragile areas (i.e. sand barrier).
The population has grown to about 30,000 permanent inhabitants and an additional 40,000 summer residents. Climatologically, LdR is
now experiencing major storm surges and changes in wind patterns driving ooding of coastal villages, and coastal erosion (Fanning,
2012; Lozoya et al., 2014). ES are under threat from increasing temperature, precipitation, and sea level rise (Fanning, 2012; Lozoya
et al., 2014; Nin, 2013), as well as eutrophication, unplanned tourism development, articial water level regulation, and a failure to
fully implement the local management plan.
enaga Grande de Santa Marta, Colombia (CGSM)
The Ci´
enaga Grande de Santa Marta (CGSM) is part of Colombias largest coastal lagoon system, with its extensive mangrove
ecosystem earning it status in the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands in 1998 and as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve designation in 2000.
Located in the tropics, this site experiences high seasonal and interannual variation in precipitation associated with the El Ni˜
Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and low frequency drivers (i.e. quasi-decadal) associated with atmospheric pressure gradients and sea
surface temperature in the Atlantic and Pacic Oceans (Restrepo et al., 2019). In addition to the high biodiversity value, the lagoon
provides economically important ES supporting commercial shing and tourism. Natural freshwater inputs into the lagoon have long
been modied to irrigate plantations owned largely by wealthy, non-local SH. There are many human stressors impacting both the
quality and the quantity of freshwater in the lagoon. Freshwater diversions have historically led to salinity increases associated with
declines in socioeconomically-important sh and mollusk production. Increasing population and intensive agricultural activity in the
adjacent watersheds have caused hyper-eutrophication leading to cyanobacteria blooms, oxygen depletion and sh kills (Botero and
Mancera, 1996; Hern´
andez and Gocke, 1990; Polania et al., 2001). Climate projections for the region point to lower precipitation and
less runoff from the basin (Blanco and Viloria, 2006). This, together with projected sea level rise, will likely lead to further salinization
of the CGSM, which is currently more saline than it has been in ca. 5300 years based upon the paleorecord (Velez et al., 2014).
San Joaquin River, USA (SJR)
The San Joaquin River (SJR) and its tributaries originate in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains and ow in a westerly direction
R.L. Smyth et al.
Environmental Development xxx (xxxx) xxx
through Californias Central Valley (CV) and north into the San Francisco Bay via the Sacramento-San Joaquin delta. The climate is
generally characterized by hot, dry summers and cooler, wetter but highly variable winters with a precipitation gradient in the
watershed that ranges from near 170 cm/yr in the mountains to 15 cm/yr in the valley. The natural river-wetland complex that
historically supported Chinook salmon and other migratory sh species has been heavily altered by dam construction and water di-
versions such that the river runs dry in the CV in all but the wettest years (Bay-Delta Fish & Wildlife Ofce, n.d.). River ows are
controlled by several multi-purpose reservoirs located along the mountain front and used to produce hydropower and supply water to
the over $10 billion agricultural industry in the lower valley. In addition to commercial uses, the upper reservoirs are used for rec-
reational activities (boating, rafting, shing). A legal settlement reached in 2006 mandates restoration of water ows for the historic
spring-run of Chinook salmon and other sh species in the SJR while minimizing impacts to commercial users (Bay-Delta Fish &
Wildlife Ofce; San Joaquin River Restoration Program, n.d.). The SJR regional climate outlook suggests that increases in the fre-
quency and intensity of water scarcity issues are likely in the future (Cayan et al., 2009; Hayhoe et al., 2004). Models suggest +1 to 2 C
by year 2050 and +2 to 6 C by year 2100 with more intense variability during the summer (Jackson et al., 2012). Modeled outcomes
and observations regarding precipitation in the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains suggest that there may be similar amounts of
precipitation in the future, but more rain and less snow, which is expected to lead to earlier depletion of the annual snowpack and
increasingly scarce water for summer and fall irrigation seasons. The gap between water demand and surface water supply in the SJR
basin has historically been lled with groundwater and has resulted in severely over-drafted aquifers (Famiglietti et al., 2011). Warmer
drier weather will reduce ows and elevate the water temperature regime, endangering the Chinook salmon restoration effort (Myrick
and Cech, 2001).
Muskoka River Watershed (MRW)
The Muskoka River originates in the Algonquin Provincial Park highlands in central Ontario, Canada and ows through a formerly
glaciated landscape with abundant lakes and wetlands. Located at the southern limit of the boreal ecozone, the climate is cool, wet, and
seasonally variable. The Muskoka River and the many lakes and wetlands in its watershed provide many freshwater ES including
supplying drinking water, tourism and recreational opportunities, generating hydropower, receiving wastewater, mitigating ood
events and maintaining biodiversity in natural habitats. Many of these ES rely on maintenance of water quality, which is overall in
good condition currently but threatened by land use change, salinization, and extreme weather events. Climate projections for the
region vary with modeling scenarios, but median temperature change is predicted to be +23 C by 2050 with substantial changes in
the timing of precipitation but not the total amount (Yao et al., 2013; Wang et al., 2014, 2015).
Appendix B. Understanding engagement practices
Table B1
Questions developed and answered by each SAFER site team for this cross-site stakeholder analysis.
Code Site Context
A1 What are the local human and climate change impacts on your watershed/water body?
A2 How does the local community utilize this water body?
A3 How did you dene risk at your research site?
A4 What are the human-induced and climate change risks to this site?
A5 How developed/common is civil society/SH engagement in environmental management around your site? (World Bank denes civil society as the wide
array of non-governmental and not-for-prot organizations that have a presence in public life, expressing the interests and values of their members or
others, based on ethical, cultural, political, scientic, religious or philanthropic considerations.)
A6 Are there social scientists involved in your site/project? If yes, specify their contribution.
SH Engagement Process
B1 Who are the SHs at your site? How did you go about identifying potential SHs for your site?
B2 How did you approach these SHs? How/why did you prioritize amongst different types of SHs (e.g., local residents, watershed/environmental groups,
government ofcials)
B3 When in your scientic study of this water body did you begin to approach SHs? (e.g., before deciding upon a study site, before any data collection, after
buoy deployment)
B4 What challenges have you encountered in trying to engage SHs in your research/risk assessment?
B5 Have you (or others at your site) evaluated perceptions of local SHs of climate change risk? If yes, to what extent are these perceptions the same or different
from the perceptions of the scientists?
B6 Have you identied/evaluated the ecosystem services of your site? If yes, how did you do so? (e.g., scientic expert opinion, in collaboration with
community SHs)
B7 Have any ecosystem service valuation studies been conducted at your site?
B8 Are there citizen scientists active at your site? (citizen scientists are community members that have been trained by scientists to collect scientic data)
B9 Have you determined any mitigation approaches/solutions? If yes, how were these approaches determined (e.g., by scientic experts, in collaboration with
Reection and Thinking Ahead
C1 What has worked at your site to yield useful information for freshwater risk assessment? Explain the lesson(s) learned.
C2 What have you tried with respect to SH engagement that hasnt worked?
C3 If you were to start over, what would you do differently to engage SHs?
C4 What do you plan to do next with respect to SH engagement?
C5 Have your denitions of risk and SH changed as a result of this project? If yes, explain how so.
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Environmental Development xxx (xxxx) xxx
Appendix C. Science as an Education and Outreach Feedback Process: A Case study from Chile
Stakeholder outreach at the LPC site (Chile) began as series of informal interaction between researchers and land owners that pre-
date the SAFER project, consisting of requests for access to eld sites, general conversation about the research and ndings, and
occasional requests for logistic support like student housing, transportation or guide services (Table C1). Formalization of the SH
process began with a proposal, driven by researchers, for a potential designation as zone free off aquatic invasive species. The proposal
was intended as a policy model and novel approach to controlling the spread of the invasive diatom D. geminata, and the site was
chosen based on hydrologic isolation and value for commercial y shing (Reid et al., 2012). Despite an informal declaration with
signage at the sites watershed boundaries, no resources were available for implementation (only for areas already affected by invasive
species). This result, together with the range and social and geographic complexity of identied stakeholders, and lack of evident
resource conicts over short to medium time scales, led to a series of coupled research and education efforts implemented at this site,
and also within a broader geographic area. These include a climate change perception study (Helman, 2015) and a lake monitoring
initiative that included both citizen science and educational objectives. The latter proved to be more productive: starting with a eld
and classroom based science illustration workshop directed toward local rural schools, illustrations of local plants and animals by
students aged 515 were included in the rst chapter of an educational book on lakes and climate change (Figure C1). This chapter,
highlighting the elements that were felt to be the easiest bridge or connection with the broader theme of lake ecosystems, is followed
up by subsequent chapters incrementing levels of complexity: a focus on organisms is followed by examples of ecological patterns and
interactions; this in turn followed by chapters on the geographic template, climate drivers of lakes, effects of human land use in the
watershed. This in turn nally enabling a basic discussion of how lakes may be affected by climate change, and the importance of
monitoring. Wherever possible observations by local residents (e.g. climate perception study), and local examples, were used in the
book. This approach, on one hand, constitutes a form of active intervention, it was felt to be a necessary step in terms of the difculty in
dening problems, conicts, risks, or areas where scientic investigation might contribute toward resolving any of these. Hence the SH
outreach process may not be independent of the education process, meanwhile education as local interpretation of global general-
izations (often the product of scientic investigation elsewhere) may be considered an extension of communication of scientic results.
Table C1
Stakeholder engagement over time.
Year Activity
2007 First research contact with local residents (PhD project)
20092010 First sustained research activities (Fondecyt project).
2013 Proposal for Aquatic Invasive free zone;
2013 Development of site-based guide to the natural and human history, incorporating both Interviews with local residents and results of previous
scientic research;
2014 Climate change perception survey;
2015 Demonstration of meteorological station and mini-buoy in aquarium, rural schools and community;
2015 Painting of buoys with science or environmental message;
2016 - Workshops on scientic illustration, with eld and classroom components
20171018 Student illustrations incorporated in educational materials: Lagos como Sentinelas de Cambio Climatico
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Environmental Development xxx (xxxx) xxx
Fig. C1. 2016 Workshops on scientic illustration, with eld observations (upper left) and classroom activities (lower left) contributing to a eld
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... Figure 3 shows the corresponding conceptual framework. In this process, how the government weighs stakeholder needs will affect the consequences of policy implementation (Smyth et al. 2020). Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. ...
... Broad public participation is essential for fair and feasible water resource management decisions (Smyth et al. 2020). Humans generate corresponding water management awareness in the water dilemma, which cannot be directly translated into actions to solve it. ...
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Human activities are profoundly changing the state of natural water systems. Human-water interactions have shown unprecedented scale and intensity. Traditional hydrological methods have difficulty systematically analyzing the process of water utilization, transformation, transportation and redistribution in the production and consumption of products. This paper reviews the literature surrounding sociohydrology to illustrate its useful exploration in the study of human-water coupling. The paper begins by presenting background information before conducting a bibliometric analysis of the development trends. Four perspectives of sociohydrology revealing the interaction between humans and water are introduced: the evolution of basin-scale water allocation patterns; human activities and hydrological disasters under climate change; virtual water—a useful tool for analyzing water utilization and transformation in the production and consumption of products; and public participation and water management policies. Subsequently, major methods and their potential applications are covered: sociohydrological modeling, field surveys and statistical models. A literature review suggests that the focus of research on human-water coupling lies in the selection and modeling of elements. The macro-element describing system changes should be extended at the political and cultural levels. Research on structural and institutional indicators on a long historical scale should be deepened and expanded. Interdisciplinary research still needs further development.
... Ito et al. (2020) also highlight a positive role of nature affinity on engagement behavior. Recently, Smyth et al. (2021) have explored stakeholder engagement across a developing network of aquatic research sites in North and South America with wide ranging cultural norms, social values, resource management paradigms, and eco-physical conditions. They indicate different degrees of engagement. ...
Tourism sustainability has been extensively investigated in prior research. Yet, its relationships with social engagement remain unclear. The objective of this research is to investigate the direct and indirect effects of tourism sustainability and nature affinity on social engagement propensity. It relies on structural equation modeling and on three different studies across different time periods (N = 1405) conducted on tourists from different geographical areas (France and Quebec). The results show that tourism sustainability and nature affinity positively and consistently affect social engagement propensity across different time periods and in both countries investigated. However, the mediators have different effects on the relationships investigated. Nature conservation attitude mediates the effect of tourism sustainability on social engagement propensity for Quebecer tourists, but not for their French counterparts. In contrast, personal tourist experience mediates the effects of tourism sustainability and nature affinity on social engagement propensity for French respondents, but not for those from Quebec. These findings have several theoretical implications for sustainability and nature conservation research and practical orientations for the tourism industry and public policy makers.
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This article aims to understand the typologies of stakeholders, their role in the water resources management system in the R’Dom Sub-basin(Morocco), and to identify the current and desired interactions among stakeholders. For this purpose, The MACTOR participatory approach was adopted to involve all key water stakeholders and to analyze their interactions. The action system was characterized by the analysis of related issues and relevant actors on the ground. Thus, ten actors and twelve objectives were identified and assessed in this study. The analysis of stakeholder games allowed to identify the typologies of stakeholders according to their strategic objectives and to evaluate their power, influence and dependence, as well as their convergence in a global water management system. The results show a significant level of convergence among stakeholders despite the existence of certain stakeholders who may be considered autonomous given their low involvement in integrated water management. Furthermore, there was a limited involvement of stakeholders in certain strategic objectives such as capacity building, technical means, and awareness-raising actions. The paper shows the need to generate greater collaborative efforts among water stakeholders involved in the implementation of integrated water resources management in the R'Dom sub-basin.
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This study evaluated the influence of low-frequency oscillations, that are linked to large-scale oceanographic–atmospheric processes, on streamflow variability in small tropical coastal mountain rivers of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia. We used data from six rivers that had > 32 years of complete, continuous monthly streamflow records. This investigation employed spectral analyses to (1) explore temporal characteristics of streamflow variability, (2) estimate the net contribution to the energy spectrum of low-frequency oscillations to streamflow anomalies, and (3) analyze the linkages between streamflow anomalies and large-scale, low-frequency oceanographic–atmospheric processes. Wavelet analyses indicate that the 8–12-year component exhibited a quasi-stationary state, with a peak of maximum power between 1985 and 2005. These oscillations were nearly in phase in all rivers. Maximum power peaks occurred for the Palomino and Rancheria rivers in 1985 and 1995, respectively. The wavelet spectrum highlights a change in river variability patterns between 1995 and 2015, characterized by a shift towards the low-frequency oscillations' domain (8–12 years). The net contribution of these oscillations to the energy spectrum was as high as 51 %, a value much larger than previously thought for rivers in northwestern South America. The simultaneous occurrence of hydrologic oscillations, as well as the increase in the amplitude of the 8–12-year band, defined periods of extremely anomalous wet seasons during 1989–1990, 1998–2002 and 2010–2011, reflecting the role of low-frequency oscillations in modulating streamflow variability in these rivers. Cross-wavelet transform and wavelet coherence revealed high common powers and significant coherences in low-frequency bands (>96 months) between streamflow anomalies and Atlantic Meridional Oscillation (AMO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) and the Tropical North Atlantic Index (TNA). These results show the role of large-scale, low-frequency oceanographic–climate processes in modulating the long-term hydrological variability of these rivers.
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Droughts constitute natural hazards that affect water supply for ecosystems and human livelihoods. In 2013–2016, the Caribbean experienced the worst drought since the 1950s, and climate projections for the southern Caribbean predict less rainfall by the end of the 21st century. We assessed streamflow response to drought for a watershed in the Colombian Caribbean by analyzing the effects of drought length and land cover on streamflow recovery. We generated a calibrated SWAT model and created annual and monthly drought scenarios from rainfall records. We used our model to predict water yield for selected land covers (wet forest, shade coffee, shrub, and dry forest) under drought conditions. Annual scenarios resulted in water yield reductions of ~15 mm month−1 (wet forest, coffee, and shrub) and 5 mm month−1 (dry forest) for the first month after a two-year drought. Maximum water yield reductions for monthly scenarios occurred after a 10-month drought and were ~100 mm month−1 (wet forest, coffee, and shrub) and 20 mm month−1 (dry forest). Streamflow recovered within nine months (annual scenarios), and two to eight months (monthly scenarios) after drought termination. Drought response seems to be conditioned by climatic factors (rainfall seasonality and spatial variability) and catchment properties.
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In this work, we develop and test proxy-based diagnostic tools for comparing freshwater ecosystem services (FWES) risks across an international array of freshwater ecosystems. FWES threats are increasing rapidly under pressure from population, climate change, pollution, land use change, and other factors. We identified spatially explicit FWES threats estimates (referred to as threat benchmarks) and extracted watershed-specific values for an array of aquatic ecosystems in the Western Hemisphere (Ramsar sites). We compared these benchmark values to values extracted for sites associated with an international FWES threat investigation. The resulting benchmark threats appeared to provide a meaningful context for the diagnostic assessment of study site selection by revealing gaps in coverage of the underlying socio-environmental problem. In an effort to simplify the method, we tested regularly updated environmental and socioeconomic metrics as potential proxies for the benchmark threats using regression analysis. Three category proxies, aggregated from (i) external (global to regional, climate-related), (ii) internal (watershed management-related), and (iii) socioeconomic and governance related proxies produced strong relationships with water supply threat benchmarks, but only weak relationships with biodiversity-related and nutrient regulation benchmark threats. Our results demonstrate the utility of advancing global FWES status and threat benchmarks for organizing coordinated research efforts and prioritizing decisions with regard to international socio-environmental problems.
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While intact forests have intrinsic value in terms of conserving biodiversity, they are also important for associated ecosystem services of soil and water conservation, in addition to the biodiversity, function and geomorphology of stream and river ecosystems. In this latter context, the perspective of watershed is more relevant than forest patch, however we are unaware of any landscape assessments of intact forested watersheds (IFWs). We mapped the coverage of forested watersheds with limited intervention for southern Patagonia (Chile, Argentina) using existing forest stand mapping and high resolution stream/watershed delineation (patch size ~0.4 km 2). Validation and adjusted IFW boundaries was performed using high resolution satellite imagery for three major inland basins representing the north-south range of the study area. For both scales we evaluated size distribution, conservation status, forest type (deciduous vs. evergreen temperate forest) and bio-climatic zones (precipitation range 500 to >6000 mm/year). For the coarse regional analysis potential IFWs covered over 40% of land surface, and included nearly 60% of all forest cover. These figures were significantly reduced following basin scale validation to 6-21% for IFWs and 5-14% of forest contribution to IFW. IFWs identified in the regional analysis were lower elevation (0-100 m) due to abundant coastal drainages, whereas the basin analyses were higher elevation headwaters systems (1000+ m), the largest over 80 km 2. Total IFW cover was estimated between 50,000-132,000 km 2 , the range a reflection of disparate results across these two scales, further highlighting the need for comprehensive revision and field validation. At the same time the difference in areas, defined mostly by minor levels of intervention, indicate the vast potential for management or restoration. Taken together they represent a nationally and globally significant contribution to of intact temperate forests and IFWs. Interactions between forest and stream ecosystems, and their implications for IFW conservation, are discussed in these contexts, based on examples from the region. Finally we used Getis-Ord Gi* statistics to identify hot and cold spots for different attributes, providing an example of a combined index for prioritizing IFW conservation.
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The evidence for global warming can be seen in various forms, such as glacier shrinkage, sea ice retreat, sea level rise and air temperature increases. The magnitude of these changes tends to be critical over pristine and extreme biomes. Chilean Patagonia is one of the most pristine and uninhabited regions in the world, home to some of the most important freshwater reservoirs as well as to evergreen forest, lakes and fiords. Furthermore, this region presents a sparse and weak network of ground stations which must be complemented with satellite information to determine trends on biophysical parameters. The main objective of this work is to present the first assessment on snow cover over the Aysén basin in Patagonia-Chile by using Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) data from the period 2000–2016. The MOD10A2 product was processed at 500 × 500 m spatial resolution. The time-series analysis consisted in the application of non-parametric tests such as the Mann–Kendall test and Sen’s slope for annual and seasonal mean of snow covered area (SCA). Data from ground meteorological network and river discharges were also included in this work to show the trends in air temperature, precipitation and stream flow during the last decades. Results indicate that snow cover shows a decreasing non-significant trend in annual mean SCA with a −20.01 km2⋅year−1 slope, and neither seasonal mean shows statistical significance. The comparison with in situ data shows a seasonal decrease in stream flows and precipitation during summer. The hydrological year 2016 was the year with the most negative standardized joint anomalies in the period. However, the lack of in situ snow-monitoring stations in addition to the persistence of cloud cover over the basin can impact trends, creating some uncertainties in the data. Finally, this work provides an initial analysis of the possible impacts of global warming as seen by snow cover in Chilean Patagonia.
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Traditionally a temperate and hyper-humid region, western Patagonia experienced its most severe drought during the summer and fall of 2016. Along with precipitation deficits larger than 50% there was a similar reduction in river discharge into coastal waters, a decline in vegetation productivity, excessive solar radiation at the surface, and frequent upwelling-favorable wind events offshore. The combination of these regional-scale anomalies seems to have set the stage for environmental disturbances that, although not new in western Patagonia, occurred with unprecedented magnitude, including severe urban air pollution episodes, large forest fires, and the worst ever recorded harmful algae bloom (HAB). The local climate anomalies were in turn related to the concomitant strong El Niño (through atmospheric teleconnections) and, to a lesser extent, anthropogenic climate change mediated by the positive polarity of the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) and internal variability, as both modes weakened the westerlies. Dryer than present conditions are consistently projected for northern Patagonia during the 21st century as a consequence of anthropogenic increases in radiative forcing; superposition of El Niño events in this altered climate may result in a higher frequency of extreme droughts and environmental disruptions like those observed in 2016.
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The Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network (GLEON) has a tremendous opportunity to facilitate greater public understanding of lakes and enable evidence-based decision making for freshwater ecosystems with high frequency data. To investigate this potential as well as the scope of outreach activities currently underway, we surveyed the 46 GLEON sites active as of 2013 about the uses of the high-frequency lake data (HFD). Of the 26 who responded, 69% engaged in or were aware of the use of GLEON HFD beyond academics. To highlight some of the outreach activities conducted in collaboration with GLEON scientists, we elaborate on 3 categories of data use: (1) engaging with citizens, (2) educating students and teachers, and (3) aiding in decision making. When synthesized with a discussion of examples of broader engagement activities across the network from the perspective of participants, the results suggest GLEON’s network science approach enables the diffusion of ideas and tools for conducting effective outreach. Results also point to opportunities for GLEON to build on existing experience to encourage greater engagement of member scientists in lake conservation, restoration, and management. In light of the growing challenges in managing water quality and quantity, our findings will help determine best practices and provide guidance to scientists on how to engage a broader range of stakeholders in lake research and management.
The continuous interaction between human activities and environment leads to adopting a broad approach for studying watershed systems. Undoubtedly, designing an efficient but also sustainable river-basin management plan requires considering the ecosystem, the economic and social aspects related to the use of natural resources. Given the practical and theoretical relevance that stakeholders’ participation has achieved in the frame of new approaches for watershed management, this paper aims to identify the possibility of implementing a collaborative strategy in the particular case of the Sauce Grande River Basin (SGRB), Argentina. Such implementation requires the fulfillment of some key conditions that heighten or hinder their execution. Our results indicate that, although the complexity of the basin makes necessary the implementation of a collaborative plan, it is not plausible in the short term. Some issues, such as the engagement of all stakeholders (inside and outside the basin), and the simplification and coordination of the norms and levels of decision making, should be taken into account for implementing a collaborative management in the basin. Otherwise, the implementation could have a non-expected result on the socio-ecological system, generating an immediate reject to more participative strategies.
There is increasing recognition of the need to incorporate the complex and dynamic interactions between society and water in studies of water resource systems. The study of human-water dynamics requires the involvement of researchers from different disciplines, including hydrology and social science. This paper tracks recent trends in socio-hydrological research using quantitative and qualitative methods. Bibliographic metrics and network analysis are used to identify general trends and illustrate the internal connections in this small but growing interdisciplinary field. Results show that hydrologists dominate research in socio-hydrology as presently defined, with far less participation from social scientists. Research questions for socio-hydrology tend to focus on system dynamics and are often not framed in a way that engages the interests and expertise of social scientists. A qualitative analysis addresses key barriers to the interdisciplinary development of socio-hydrology and identifies research needs and directions for better integration of the human dimensions of water science. Attracting social scientists to this field requires a broader conceptualization of socio-hydrology to focus on sustainable development, risk assessment, hazard management, resilience, adaption, and knowledge mobilization in addition to hydrology’s traditional focus on systems modeling and decision support. We propose three themes for thematic focus: systemic risk and natural hazards; sustainability science; and adaptive governance. This broader framing of socio-hydrology is inherently more interdisciplinary, brings new methods and viewpoints to the field, and ensures that place-based local values are included in studies of water system dynamics.