The impacts of congested roads, overdevelopment and farming practices on water quality in the Chesapeake Bay has been well-documented by researchers for decades. What is less understood is how a damaged environment shapes human responses. A four-year, $1.4 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) will help researchers and water quality stakeholders predict how changes to environmental quality influence human behavior and policy decisions, and how those decisions impact quality of life throughout the bay.
University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Professor Raleigh Hood and a group of researchers from three institutions throughout the United States are part of the four-year project that will develop a coupled modeling system to represent and simulate the complex interrelationships between humans and the environment. Solving human issues depends, to a great extent, on understanding the interdependence of humans and the environment.
We have a much greater understanding about how the environment responds to human decisions than about how humans respond to a changing environment and how these responses drive decision-making. Human behaviors drive changes in transportation, land use, water quality, and ultimately living resources, such as fish habitat and seagrass growth. To date, we do not have the ability to predict how human-induced changes in the environment feed back and impact humans.
“We currently have the computational tools we need to predict how human-induced nutrient pollution impacts water quality (e.g., “dead zones”) and living resources in the Chesapeake Bay,” said Principal Investigator and University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Professor Raleigh Hood. “The revolutionary thing about this project is that it will develop new tools that allow us to predict how degraded water quality impacts human decisions and actions aimed at restoring the Chesapeake Bay.”
Coupled modeling allows us to predict the effect of two subjects on one another and an overall system. This project will develop a coupled modeling system that is capable of representing and simulating the complex interrelationships among socio-economic activity, transportation, land use, land cover, and water quality with two-way feedbacks between humans and the environment.
“We currently have the computational tools we need to predict how human-induced nutrient pollution impacts water quality and living resources in Chesapeake Bay. The revolutionary thing about this project is that it will develop new tools that allow us to predict how degraded water quality impacts human decisions and actions aimed at restoring Chesapeake Bay,” said Hood.
Hood and his team will use this modeling system to predict how socio-economic changes and policy decisions in the Chesapeake Bay watershed impact water quality and how changes in water quality, such as changes in the size of “dead zones”, in the Chesapeake Bay influence human behavior and decision-making. These predictions will be based on the modeling of multiple plausible future scenarios that build on various realizations of land uses, including smart growth versus business as usual, in the context of climate change. Examination of several scenarios will allow the team to determine how environmental degradation can potentially impact different communities and how they can drive different policies and actions for land use, transportation, and land cover. All of the scenarios will be run in the context of climate change to account for impacts on future efforts to restore Chesapeake Bay.
Partners on the grant project team include the Chesapeake Bay Program (CBP), The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Dartmouth College, who offer extensive expertise in agent-based policy modeling and stakeholder management. Their quantitative, policy and regulatory modeling will combine with an existing human-to-built environment modeling suite developed by NCSG and a natural environment modeling suite developed by UMCES to form the two-way modeling loop system.
Humans have impacted water quality and living resources across the country, what is learned in this project will be applicable to other regions. “This effort will bring together academic scientists and managers to create new, state of the art computational tools that will help us restore Chesapeake Bay,” said Hood.