Interdisciplinary Scoping for Improving Watershed Sustainability in Mexico

  • 2017/12/11     Oaxaca, Mexico

    Image: Screenshot from Closing Conference Video – PECS II, MA Estudios

    Reporting by Jiwon Park, Intern, Communications and Advocacy

    Around the world, people live in very different natural environments. Since every region develops in this unique local context, we need to conduct place-based or site-based research at local scales to truly be able to address the challenges to development of specific regions. Attempting to apply a global perspective to each development challenge is quite demanding. Exchanging information across disciplines about place-based research allows actors to better understand what is happening indeed in all corners of the world. On the basis of this collaboration, general and fundamental guidelines to solve development challenges can be identified and research can be conducted that advances a transformation to a more sustainable world.

    The open science conference “The Second Conference of the Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS-II)” organised by Future Earth took place 7-10 November 2017 in Oaxaca, Mexico. The conference discussed the importance of place-based transdisciplinary research for global sustainability. Over 300 participants from researchers, policy-decision makers, and international representatives from different organisations and initiatives attended the conference and shared their research experiences and knowledge related to various environmental issues.

    At the conference, UNU-FLORES researcher Dr Lulu Zhang participated in a symposium entitled “Exploring the Socioecological Dynamics of Payment for Hydrologic Services (PHS) Programs: Opportunities and Challenges for Enhancing Watershed Sustainability”. She presented the impacts and challenges of environmental restoration on hydrological services in drylands, focusing on managing the forest structure in the Loess Plateau region in north-west China.

    Image: Heidi Asbjornsen (Professor of University of New Hampshire)

    China has pursued environmental restoration for decades. However, the current payment scheme of Chinese afforestation programmes has yet to see satisfactory impact on farmers contributions to managing forests. While soil services in ecologically fragile areas have improved in this area after the introduction of the payment scheme, hydrological services have been seriously undermined. Also, the current scheme has caused water-use conflicts between upper and lower streams, food security problems, and water shortage that threaten regional development.

    In this respect, the possibility of designing Payment for Hydrologic Services programs (PHS) to enhance watershed sustainability and monitoring socio-ecological impacts needs to be discussed in transdisciplinary perspectives. Dr Lulu Zhang pointed out that a revised watershed management framework, finance, and capacity building through suitable payment schemes and measures for enhancing both water and soil-related ecosystem services should be taken into account.

    The symposium brought together attendees from a broad range of professional backgrounds and countries by combining different knowledge and various discussions in an interdisciplinary approach. Through a lively panel discussion, the need for co-production of knowledge and building interaction and incorporation across different disciplines in research process was raised. The conference provided various key themes and substantial sessions for future research and education on placed-based research for global sustainability.