Effect of Stakeholder Attitudes on the Optimization of Watershed Conservation Practices

Date
2013-01-30
Language
American English
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M.S.
Degree Year
2012
Department
Department of Earth Sciences
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Indiana University
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Abstract

Land use alterations have been major drivers for modifying hydrologic cycles in many watersheds nationwide. Imbalances in this cycle have led to unexpected or extreme changes in flood and drought patterns and intensities, severe impairment of rivers and streams due to pollutants, and extensive economic losses to affected communities. Eagle Creek Watershed (ECW) is a typical Midwestern agricultural watershed with a growing urban land-use that has been affected by these problems. Structural solutions, such as ditches and tiles, have helped in the past to reduce the flooding problem in the upland agricultural area. But these structures have led to extensive flooding and water quality problems downstream and loss of moisture storage in the soil upstream. It has been suggested that re-naturalization of watershed hydrology via a spatially-distributed implementation of non-structural and structural conservation practices, such as cover crops, wetlands, riparian buffers, grassed waterways, etc. will help to reduce these problems by improving the upland runoff (storing water temporally as moisture in the soil or in depression storages). However, spatial implementation of these upland storage practices poses hurdles not only due to the large number of possible alternatives offered by physical models, but also by the effect of tenure, social attitudes, and behaviors of landowners that could further add complexities on whether and how these practices are adopted and effectively implemented for benefits. This study investigates (a) how landowner tenure and attitudes can be used to identify promising conservation practices in an agricultural watershed, (b) how the different attitudes and preferences of stakeholders can modify the effectiveness of solutions obtained via classic optimization approaches that do not include the influence of social attitudes in a watershed, and (c) how spatial distribution of landowner tenure affects the spatial optimization of conservation practices on a watershed scale. Results showed two main preferred practices, one for an economic evaluation (filter strips) and one for an environmental perspective (wetlands). A land tenure comparison showed differences in spatial distribution of systems considering all the conservation practices. It also was observed that cash renters selected practices will provide a better cost-revenue relation than the selected optimal solution.

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Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
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