While the link between Ecosystem Services (ES) and human wellbeing is widely asserted, these relationships are not well understood in a quantitative sense in deltaic environments. This is due to the co-existence of multiple layers of physical and economic factors that drive both people and the environment. It is vital that we develop an understanding of the present role of ES in human health and wellbeing to be able to evaluate future scenarios. We will then combine the baseline understanding with projections of future key ES to explore how health and wellbeing might change under a range of different scenarios.
The methodology is based upon the conceptualisation of ES provision in the MEA and will utilise a dynamic systems modelling approach to describe the complex interrelationships between the ES, their drivers and their users, including feedbacks and thresholds. We will use software tools such as STELLA to create a metamodel which links together outputs from the component models (in WP2 and WP4). This will provide an overarching framework between the different ES in the delta system and allow us to formalise the relationships between them, first in qualitative categories, and then as functional algorithms. This is invaluable for our study as it integrates multiple scales and multiple thematic sectors of investigation that have usually been independently explored within their respective disciplines. This will enable us to capture the effects of the dynamic range of individual drivers on ES and livelihoods. It will inform effective policy responses to perceived critical threats and inform policy makers of the impacts of changes to promote sustainability and to embrace integrated management.
This approach requires the construction of a coupled analytical system which develops scenarios of change across the relevant parameters, analyses their consequences through physical, ecosystem and ultimately human consequence, and provides a basis for interaction with relevant stakeholders in terms of exploring policy responses. Integral to the approach is: (i) careful design and interpretation of the inputs and results of the integrated modelling to avoid “perverse” outputs; and (ii) the participatory involvement of stakeholders – government, local/regional planning authorities, civil society and regulatory agencies – in all stages of the research, including: conceptual development, scenario development, model simulations, and adaptation/policy assessment.