Model Diversity in Nexus Research: The More the Merrier

  • 2019/01/04     Wageningen, The Netherlands

    Image: Lulu Zhang/UNU-FLORES

    By Atiqah Fairuz Salleh, Communications and Advocacy

    Nexus projects and corresponding nexus tools have so far mainly emphasised the quantitative aspect of resources governance and management. A resource perspective to the Nexus Approach – that is, looking at the main environmental resources underlying interconnected sectors – could provide greater insight on quality aspects, such as water quality. The latter is the main focus of aquatic ecosystem models, which, however, have not yet been used in a nexus context. To discuss possibilities of integrating the ecosystem perspective in the nexus with fellow nexus researchers, UNU-FLORES organised a session on “Integrated Modelling and Management of Water Resources” at the International Conference Water Science for Impact (16–18 October 2018).

    Dr Stephan Hülsmann (Systems and Flux Analysis Considering Global Change Assessment Unit) opened the session by introducing its aims: firstly, to exemplify the state of the art of existing nexus tools and ecosystem models and explore the pros and potential of stronger interaction, and secondly, to discuss conceptual and technical issues of adding the ecosystem perspective into nexus tools. The session looked at both the nexus and ecosystem perspectives, respectively, with contributions on each.

    There is a need to develop stronger links between communities that are so far working in isolation on nexus issues and (aquatic) ecosystem management, respectively.

    The approximately 50 participants agreed that within nexus research, the ecosystem perspective needs to be strengthened. This has to be reflected in the nexus tools applied, which so far do not or only marginally consider ecosystem aspects. To achieve this, aquatic ecosystem models can play an important role.

    During the structured interactive discussions, it was made clear that a variety of approaches is required. In fact, model diversity should be seen as an opportunity.

    Image: UNU-FLORES/Stephan Hülsmann

    Image: UNU-FLORES/Stephan Hülsmann







    In addition to the organised session, Dr Stephan Hülsmann also presented in a session on “Water-Energy-Food-Ecosystem Nexus”. Other UNU-FLORES researchers Dr Lulu Zhang (Soil and Land-Use Management Unit) also spoke at the session on “Scarcity” and Sabrina Kirschke (Water Resources Management Unit) presented the poster “Capacity Challenges in Applying Water Quality Indicators”.

    In her talk, Dr Zhang addressed the topic of achieving water security in water-scarce regions. To increase water availability in such regions, strategic management has to go beyond just considering the water sector to also consider how land is managed. One recommendation is to constrain green water fluxes (the amount of water used by vegetation) and to intensify blue water fluxes (the water usable by human society). To realise such solutions, knowledge of the dynamic interaction between water, soil, and vegetation is critical to improving water security.

    The international conference jointly organised by Wageningen University & Research (WUR), Deltares, IHE Delft Institute for Water Education, KWR Watercycle Research Institute, National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), and the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) in Wageningen, Netherlands gathered about 400 participants, mainly from academia and the water sector.

    The multidisciplinary conference focuses on the interaction between science and society in developing solutions for pressing water-related problems as identified in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Particularly interesting to note is how the nexus concept – one that UNU-FLORES strongly advocates for – is increasingly recognised as a valid tool and approach, such that it is explicitly addressed in the new strategic plan of WUR, the main organiser and host of the event.