Coupling virtual watersheds with ecosystem services assessment: A 21st century platform to support river research and management
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AuthorBarquín Ortiz, José; Benda, Lee; Villa, Ferdinando; Brown, Lee; Bonada, Nuria; Vieites, David; Battin, Tom; Olden, Julian; Hughes, Samantha Jane; Gray, Clare
The demand for freshwater is projected to increase worldwide over the coming decades, resulting in severe water stress and threats to riverine biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, and services. A major societal challenge is to determine where environmental changes will have the greatest impacts on riverine ecosystem services and where resilience can be incorporated into adaptive resource planning. Both water managers and scientists need new integrative tools to guide them toward the best solutions that meet the demands of a growing human population but also ensure riverine biodiversity and ecosystem integrity. Resource planners and scientists could better address a growing set of riverine management and risk mitigation issues by (1) using a ‘virtual watersheds’ approach based on improved digital river networks and better connections to terrestrial systems, (2) integrating virtual watersheds with ecosystem services technology (ARtificial Intelligence for Ecosystem Services: ARIES), and (3) incorporating the role of riverine biotic interactions in shaping ecological responses. This integrative platform can support both interdisciplinary scientific analyses of pressing societal issues and effective dissemination of findings across river research and management communities. It should also provide new integrative tools to identify the best solutions and trade-offs to ensure the conservation of riverine biodiversity and ecosystem services.