Photo: Jiangxiao Qiu

Water Sustainability and Climate in the Yahara Watershed

Agricultural watersheds of central North America face several challenges to social-ecological resilience: climate is warming, precipitation is more variable, soils are increasingly polluted, water quality is impaired, floods are increasing, human demand is rising for land and water resources, governance is challenged to address an evolving mosaic of problems, and coming decades seem highly uncertain. In this context, we are analyzing the Yahara Watershed, an agricultural urbanizing watershed in southern Wisconsin, USA, to assess its resilience to changing drivers.

Key features

The Water Sustainability and Climate project has assessed recent trends in key features of the watershed, spatial pattern of ten ecosystem services, and spatial patterns and nestedness of governance for the watershed. Stakeholders' views about change agents, resilience and vulnerabilities of the social-ecological system have been assessed through in-person interviews and a series of workshops. Four qualitative scenarios have been created to explore plausible trajectories to 2070 in the watershed's social-ecological system under different major regimes: no action on environmental trends; accelerated technological development; strong intervention by government; and shifting values toward sustainability. Scenario narratives, land use maps, and downscaled climate trajectories to 2070 are presented at http://Yahara2070.orgexternal link.  Quantitative changes in ten ecosystem services will be estimated for each scenario using a suite of biophysical models. Ultimately, the goal of the project is to understand how changes in the social-ecological system of the Yahara Watershed can build or impair resilience to shifting drivers including climate.

Led by

Professor Steve Carpenter (Center for Limnology, University of Wisconsin-Madison) and Professor Adena Rissman (Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Printable version

2016-09-29 Capito admin

PECS - Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society

Stockholm Resilience Centre

Stockholm University
SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Visiting address: Kräftriket 2

+46 734 60 70 68


The Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS), is a core project of Future Earth. It aims to integrate research on the stewardship of social–ecological system and the relationships among natural capital, human wellbeing, livelihoods, inequality and poverty.