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Connecting plant traits and social perceptions in riparian systems: Ecosystem services as indicators of thresholds in social-ecohydrological systems

Hough, Moira, Pavao-Zuckerman, Mitchell A., Scott, Christopher A.
Journal of hydrology 2018 v.566 pp. 860-871
case studies, ecosystem services, environmental management, hydrology, monitoring, prediction, riparian areas, stakeholders, Arizona
A major challenge in predicting the response of both social-hydrological and social-ecological systems to environmental change is the lack of a causal framework for predicting thresholds of change between the linked social and natural components. Here we propose a social-ecohydrological thresholds (SEHT) framework that integrates social-hydrological, trait-based ecological, and ecosystem services concepts. This approach facilitates the identification of thresholds by treating ecosystem services as indicators of the coupling of social and natural components of the system. Using the San Pedro riparian corridor in Arizona as a case study, we implemented the SEHT framework using ecological research and stakeholder perspectives to identify key drivers and thresholds in the social-ecohydrological system. In this way, we were able to describe expected outcomes of different hydrological change scenarios on the system. Stakeholders provided input on the utility of this information to inform management decisions aimed at mitigating the impacts of environmental change. The SEHT framework provides insight on dynamics of ecosystem services. This paper demonstrates that application of the framework enables the identification of several critical drivers of potential thresholds in ecosystem services that derive from either natural or social components of the overall system. These potential thresholds can guide ecosystem service assessment and monitoring and provide a roadmap for environmental management and the development of management scenarios.