Socio-economic and Environmental Proxies for Comparing Aquatic Ecosystem Service Threats across International Sites: A Diagnostic Approach

Published in Water 10(11):1578

Harmon T RL Smyth S Chandra D Conde R Dhungel J Escobar N Hoyos JP Lozoya M Nin GM Perillo S Pincetl MC Piccolo B Reid JA Rusak F Scordo MI Velez SR Villamizar BWemple M Zilio 

Publication year 2018

Thomas C. Harmon 1,, Robyn L. Smyth 2 , Sudeep Chandra 3, Daniel Conde 4,18, Ramesh Dhungel 5, Jaime Escobar 6,7 , Natalia Hoyos 8 , Juan Pablo Lozoya 4, Mariana Nin 4, Gerardo M.E. Perillo 9, Stephanie Pincetl 10, M. Cintia Piccolo 9, Brian Reid 11, James A. Rusak 12,13 , Facundo Scordo 9, Maria I. Velez 14, Sandra R. Villamizar 15, Beverley Wemple 16 and Mariana Zilio 17

1 Environmental Systems Graduate Program, Department of Civil & Environmental Engineering,
University of California Merced, Merced, CA 94343, USA
2 Environmental and Urban Studies, Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, NY 12504, USA
3 Department of Biology, University of Nevada, Reno, NV 89557, USA
4 Centro de Manejo Costero (CURE), Universidad de la República, Maldonado 20000, Uruguay (D.C.) (J.P.L.) (M.N.)
5 Department of Agronomy, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA
6 Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Universidad del Norte,
Barranquilla 080001, Colombia
7 Center for Tropical Paleoecology and Archaeology, Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute,
Panama City 32401, Panama
8 Department of History and Social Sciences, Universidad del Norte, Barranquilla 080001, Colombia
9 Instituto Argentino de Oceanografía, CONICET & Universidad Nacional del Sur, Bahía Blanca 8000,
Argentina (G.M.E.P.) (M.C.P.) (F.S.)
10 Institute of the Environment, University of California Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
11 Centro de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas de la Patagonia, Universidad Austral de Chile,
Coyhaique 5951601, Chile
12 Department of Biology, Queen&rsquos University, Kingston, ON K7L 3N6, Canada
13 Dorset Environmental Science Centre, Dorset, ON P0A 1E0, Canada
14 Department of Geology, University of Regina, Regina, SK S4S 4P5, Canada
15 Department of Civil Engineering, Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, Bucaramanga 681007, Colombia
16 Department of Geography, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405, USA
17 Instituto de Investigaciones Económicas y Sociales del Sur&mdashCONICET & Universidad Nacional del Sur
Argentina, Bahía Blanca 8000, Argentina
18 Sección Limnología, IECA, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Montevideo 11400, Uruguay
Correspondence: Tel.: +1-209-386-3222

IAI Program


IAI Project CRN3038 - SAFER (Sensing the Americas’ Freshwater
PDFHarmon et al.pdf


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.