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Onderzoeksproject

Quantification of ecosystem services within river catchments

How can ecosystem services within river catchments be quantified in spatial and temporal explicit way?

Looptijd 2011  -  2016
Contact Johanna Schild
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Short abstract

How can ecosystem services within river catchments be quantified in spatial- and temporal-explicit way? This project looks at the biophysical quantification of ecosystem services within river catchments, while taking spatial and temporal dynamics of the catchment hydrology into account, in order to investigate how a more sustainable relation can be achieved between catchment functioning and provision of its ecosystem services.

Photo: Aerial view of Scheldt River at Antwerp (Belgium), showing a part of the densely-populated and intensively-used catchment (image credit: NASA World Wind)

Project description

Research problem

River catchments in intensively-used and densely-populated regions are under high human pressure. This can compromise water quality and increase water scarcity. Climate change is expected to exacerbate these environmental problems. As people put both pressure on ecosystems but are also dependent on them for their own wellbeing, a better understanding of this interaction is needed.

Research approach

Ecosystem services are the benefits that people obtain from ecosystems. These include services such as production of water and food, regulation of water flows, water purification and prevention of soil erosion. This concept will be used to investigate the relation between catchment functioning and societal use of its services. As the dynamics within a catchment is driven by the flow of water, spatial and temporal variation is expected, which will affect where and when specific ecosystem services will be provided.

Methods

Ecosystem services will be quantified at the landscape scale based on the hydrological dynamics of the catchment. Biogeochemical and landscape elements will be used as spatial indicators to quantify ecosystem services, using different quantification methods including spatial analysis, modelling and economic valuation techniques. 

Case studies

Two case studies will be investigated in more detail. The first case study is the semi-arid Modder River catchment (a subcatchment of the Orange River in South Africa), which serves as an example in which current water shortages are expected to increase due to climate change. The second case study is the Scheldt River catchment in Western Europe, which serves as an example for a densely-populated and intensively-used catchment with poor water quality.

Relevance

This project will contribute to a better understanding how a more sustainable relation can be achieved between catchment functioning and societal use of its ecosystem services. Increased insight into the dynamics of water quality and water scarcity problems can contribute to improved river basin management, in particular for the two cases studied.