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Research project "Developing improved social-ecological scenarios for biodiversity and ecosystem service changes in north temperate freshwater ecosystems over the next half century"

Funded by the Belmont Forum and the DFG: BiodivScen, a BiodivERsA and Belmont Forum Joint Call on “Scenarios of Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services”.

Duration: February 2019 – December 2022

Participating institutions: Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB) Berlin; Department of Biology, Lund University; IUSF, Universität Osnabrück; Département des Sciences Biologiques, Université du Québec à Montréal; Stockholm Resilience Centre

LimnoScenES is an interdisciplinary, international research project that investigates the short and long-term pressures due to climate change and intensifying land and water use on north temperate lakes. It asks about the pressures‘ effects on the lakes‘ biodiversity and ecosystem service (ES) provision – like drinking water, food production or recreational use – and investigates lakes‘ vulnerability as well as their resilience towards such pressures.

Moreover, the project works closely with the stakeholders involved in lake management or dependent on lakes’ ecosystem services and asks about their management strategies and visions regarding the lakes’ future. Within several stakeholder workshops, we will develop scenarios of future human-freshwater interactions that enable the maintenance of lakes‘ biodiversity and ecosystem services despite the increasing human-caused pressures.

Three lakes and their surroundings serve as case studies: lake Dümmer in Southern Lower Saxony, Germany; lake St. Charles, north of Québec City, Canada; and lake Ringsjön in Southern Sweden.

The first working group classifies the vulnerability of lakes by investigating the resilience of the lakes‘ clear water state. Based on this, it analyzes the effects of short and long term disturbances on lake biodiversity and the lakes‘ ES provision. The analysis is based on data from 30 lakes in Québec as well as on the EMLS consortium and the GEISHA lakes data banks which provide data on over 400 European lakes.

The second working group organizes stakeholder workshops to identify future scenarios of human-freshwater interactions. Cognitive maps help us to identify actors‘ visions regarding the lake’s functions and ecosystem services, their management strategies and action plans, and their understanding of their own role within this social-ecological system. Through causal loop diagrams we will be able to highlight causal mechanisms and dynamics within these human-freshwater interactions. Throughout this process, we will inform the stakeholders about the results from our first working group, thereby stimulating a transformative learning process. Together with the stakeholders and based on the new gained insights and knowledge, we will develop scenarios of future human-freshwater interactions and adaptive management strategies that are capable of maintaining the lake’s biodiversity and its provision of ecosystem services.

The third working group brings insights from the two former groups together and develops coupled agent-based and system dynamics models to simulate ecological feedbacks in combination with human behaviour and decision-making. Through the models, stakeholders and researchers alike can understand the coupled dynamics within a lake’s social-ecological system (the human-freshwater interactions and the external disturbances) and how a shift towards an undesirable state of the lake may be prevented.

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