Integrated Modelling and Management of Water Resources: The Ecosystem Perspective on the Nexus Approach

  • 2019/08/13     Dresden, Germany

    By Aparna Srikantan, Systems and Flux Analysis Considering Global Change Assessment

    At the Nexus Seminar entitled “Integrated Modelling and Management of Water Resources: The Ecosystem Perspective on the Nexus Approach” held on 17 June 2019, Dr Stephan Hülsmann drew attention to whether or not ecosystems and their services are considered in nexus assessments, which typically focus on water, energy, and food. Concluding that this was rarely the case, he elaborated on how to make use of existing Aquatic Ecosystem Models (AEMs) to ensure that the Nexus Approach considers all dimensions of sustainability.

    The nexus concept of integrating management approaches of interrelated environmental resources is gaining popularity both in academia and in the policy sector. It implies the necessity of better understanding the budget, fluxes, and to quantify linkages within the nexus system under study by making use of modelling tools. Within these tools, Ecosystem Services (ES), including provisioning services, regulating and maintenance services, and cultural services, need to be reflected.

    The current situation of ES basically not being a part of the Nexus Approach towards water, food, and energy should be changed by working towards the vision that ES are implemented in nexus tools via AEMs. This could be achieved by: (i) adding AEMs to nexus modelling frameworks, (ii) integrating modules or core processes of AEMs in nexus tools, or (iii) linking AEMs to other process models to create new nexus tools.

    The identification of the most appropriate set of modelling tools for a specific nexus case can be facilitated by the Nexus Tools Platform, a web-based inventory that allows an interactive comparison of models. Input data and modelling tools should at best be integrated into a framework. Environmental observatories may represent an online information portal for scientists, managers, and the local community enabling the visualisation of data and forecasting conditions under various scenarios. Upscaling environmental observatories beyond single cases and adding governance aspects as well as an education “window” would ultimately result in a Nexus Observatory.

    The discussion that followed centred around the lack of interconnections between various other scientific tools and models which are generally used for a specific system. The tools not being user-friendly is an added disadvantage mainly in the interdisciplinary scientific groups, restricting the Nexus Approach.

    Towards the end of the seminar, Dr Hülsmann concluded that the Joint PhD Programme in Integrated Management of Water, Soil, and Waste by UNU-FLORES and TU Dresden would be of key importance to operationalise nexus thinking, and, henceforth, the Nexus Observatory.

    Further Reading

    Kurian, Mathew, Kent E. Portney, Gerhard Rappold, Bryce Hannibal, and Solomon H. Gebrechorkos. 2018. “Governance of Water-Energy-Food Nexus: A Social Network Analysis Approach to Understanding Agency Behaviour.” Edited by Hülsmann, Stephan and Reza Ardakanian. Managing Water, Soil and Waste Resources to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals, 125–47.

    Mannschatz, T., T. Wolf, and S. Hülsmann. 2016. ‘Nexus Tools Platform: Web-Based Comparison of Modelling Tools for Analysis of Water-Soil-Waste Nexus’. Environmental Modelling & Software 76 (February): 137–53.