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 www.yahara2070.org. 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)
  • Professor Adena Rissman (Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology, University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Photo: Jiangxiao Qiu




TERRECO The complex TERRain and ECOlogical heterogeneity project (TERRECO) is a Korean and German university [...]

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