Euro-limpacs Deliverables

ABSTRACT - DELIVERABLE 135

Prototype DSS for example catchment

This report describes in outline Deliverable 135 (Prototype DSS for example catchment). The deliverable itself is the software product.

As part of the Euro−limpacs project, a Decision Support System (DSS) is being developed in order to assist decision makers in understanding the implications of climate change for catchment management. The purpose of the Euro−limpacs DSS is to provide catchment managers and stakeholders involved in the catchment management process with tools for assessing the likely changes to the status of freshwater ecosystems under different scenarios or catchment management strategies, in the context of climate change. Such tools are needed to aid the implementation of the emerging policy framework, including the Water Framework Directive, and should consider the increasing focus on ecosystem services within ecosystem management. Identifying management measures that represent the best value for money is also of increasing concern for mangers.

The DSS integrates data from diverse sources including environmental, social and economic data into a decision support framework based around Multi−Criteria Analysis (MCA). The structure of the DSS is flexible and generic so that it can be applied to any catchment in Europe and can incorporate already existing user data into the analysis. It will encapsulate relevant outputs from the Euro−limpacs project in the form of models, databases and expert opinion and present this in a form suitable to guide users’ decisions and indicate issues and areas within catchments where further investigation is needed.

Consultation with potential users of the DSS indicated that the it should be user−friendly and not require undue effort to apply. For this reason, the approach of the DSS is ‘broad but shallow’, integrating a wide range of environmental, social and economic parameters but not requiring users to apply complex models. Complex, dynamic models used by partners in the Euro−limpacs project (for example the nitrate model INCA−N) have therefore not been directly integrated within the DSS. However, outputs from these models or other models that users already apply within their own catchments can be incorporated into the analysis.

The DSS is based on a GIS platform that allows users to compare, using MCA, a set of scenarios of climate change or land management strategies. The user specifies which criteria form the basis of the comparison of scenarios as this depends on the particular circumstances within the catchment being assessed. Decision criteria may, for example, include variables such as mean flow, nitrate concentration, sediment loads, biodiversity indicators or stakeholder benefits. In order to make the DSS generic, it has the facility for users to incorporate user−defined variables into the analysis. This allows variables that are not assessed in the Euro−limpacs project but that are important in a particular users application to be considered.

Each of the criteria will have different values under the different scenarios and strategies. The tools, databases, models and expert guidance from Euro−limpacs will provide the basis for assigning values to each of these criteria. Where users have introduced user−defined criteria into the analysis, the values of those criteria must be defined by the user themselves using, for instance, their own data, external modelling or expert judgement.

Using a multi criteria analysis approach, these scenarios or strategies can be compared in order to determine, for example, which option offers the best strategy to address a particular environmental problem or to aid the development of mitigation strategies to counter the effects of climate change.

The GIS basis of the DSS will also allow the comparison of different areas within catchments for each of the scenarios. For instance, the variation in impact between subcatchments can be xplored so that, in addition to identifying key criteria to be addressed, the DSS will be able to identify key geographical areas within catchments where action is needed.

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