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CENTER Publications

Below is a sample of recent publications by CSTPR faculty (Center personnel highlighted):

Stories of Transformation: A Cross-Country Focus Group Study on Sustainable Development and Societal Change

Wibeck, V., B-O. Linner, M. Alves, T. Asplund, A. Bohman, M.T. Boykoff, P.M. Feetham, Y. Huang, J. Nascimento, J. Rich, C.Y. Rocha, F. Vaccarino, and S. Xian, 2019. Sustainability 11 (8), doi: 10.3390/su11082427.

articleAbstract: Societal transformation is one of the most topical concepts in sustainability research and policy-making. Used in many ways, it indicates that nonlinear systematic changes are needed in order to fully address global environmental and human development challenges. This paper explores what sustainability transformations mean for lay focus group participants in Cabo Verde, China, Fiji, Sweden, and the USA. Key findings include: (a) Tightly linked to interpersonal relationships, sustainability was seen as going beyond the Sustainable Development Goals to include a sense of belonging; (b) transformations were framed as fundamental changes from today’s society, but most participants stated that transformation pathways need to splice new structures into the old; (c) new technologies are key engines of change. Yet, the most common drivers were awareness, education, and knowledge sharing; and (d) regardless of whether state-centric or decentralized governance was preferred, personal action was seen as essential. The focus groups displayed a shared understanding across the geographical settings; a common realization of profound sustainability predicaments facing societies across the world; and a desire for fundamental change towards a more sustainable way of life. Read more ...

Savior of Rural Landscapes or Solomon’s choice? Colorado’s Experiment with Alternative Transfer Methods for Water (ATMs)

Dilling, L., J. Berggren, J. Henderson, and D. Kenney, 2019. Water Security 6, doi: 10.1016/j.wasec.2019.100027.

articleAbstract: This article focuses on the emerging landscape for Alternative Transfer Methods (ATMs) in Colorado, USA. ATMs are developing within a legal landscape of water rights governed by prior appropriation law, growing demand for water in urban centers driven by population growth, and an aging rural farm population whose most valuable asset may include senior water rights. Rural-urban water transfers in the past have been linked to the collapse of rural economies if pursued to the extreme extent of “buy-and-dry,” where water rights were purchased outright and permanently removed from agricultural land (e.g. Crowley County). This article focuses on the emerging innovations of ATMs, which seek to accomplish the same purpose of providing additional water to growing cities but through more flexible mechanisms, such as rotational fallowing, interruptible supplies, and water banks, that aim to preserve rural economies as well. We review the history and context for water allocation in Colorado, the history of rural-urban transfers, and focus on ATMs and their pros and cons. We conclude with implications of ATMs for water governance and providing flexibility and sustainability in a changing climate. Read more ...

Broadly Inflicted Stressors Can Cause Ecosystem Thinning

Burgess, M.G., A. Fredston-Hermann, D. Tilman, M. Loreau, and S.D. Gaines, 2019. Theoretical Ecology, doi: 10.1007/s12080-019-0417-4.

articleAbstract: Many anthropogenic stressors broadly inflict mortality or reduce fecundity, including habitat destruction, pollution, climate change, invasive species, and multispecies harvesting. Here, we show—in four analytical models of interspecies competition—that broadly inflicted stressors disproportionately cause competitive exclusions within groups of ecologically similar species. As a result, we predict that ecosystems become progressively thinner—that is, they have progressively less functional redundancy—as broadly inflicted stressors become progressively more intense. This may negatively affect the temporal stability of ecosystem functions, but it also buffers ecosystem productivity against stress by favoring species less sensitive to the stressors. Our main result follows from the weak limiting similarity principle: species with more similar ecological niches compete more strongly, and their coexistence can be upset by smaller perturbations. We show that stressors can cause indirect competitive exclusions at much lower stressor intensity than needed to directly cause species extinction, consistent with the finding of empirical studies that species interactions are often the proximal drivers of local extinctions. The excluded species are more sensitive to the stressor relative to their ecologically similar competitors. Moreover, broadly inflicted stressors may cause hydra effects—where higher stressor intensity results in higher abundance for a species with lower sensitivity to the stressor than its competitors. Correlations between stressor impacts and ecological niches reduce the potential for indirect competitive exclusions, but they consequently also reduce the buffering effect of ecosystem thinning on ecosystem productivity. Our findings suggest that ecosystems experiencing stress may continue to provision ecosystem services but lose functional redundancy and stability. Read more ...

Expanding the Contribution of the Social Sciences to Social-Ecological Resilience Research

Stone-Jovicich, S., B. Goldstein, K. Brown, R. Plummer, and P. Olsson, 2018. Ecology and Society 23 (1), doi: 10.5751/ES-10008-230141.

articleIntroduction: As we are confronted with mounting evidence of the profound and potentially irreversible impacts of human activities on the planet—encapsulated in the notion of the Anthropocene—the need to engage across a range of ways of knowing and doing becomes increasingly urgent. The intersection and interdependence of human–environment systems is seen by scholars, policy makers, and other stakeholders as providing a promising vehicle for bridging understandings and guiding actions toward a more sustainable future (Berkes and Folke 1998, Berkes et al. 2008). Growing attention is thus being focused on social-ecological resilience. Indeed, it is increasingly being adopted as a centerpiece of policy making, planning processes, and management strategies (e.g., Field et al. 2014; http://www.100resilientcities.org). It also is being embraced in other fora—such as civil society and social movements (e.g., the Transition Movement) and in arts and creative practice—as a means to invoke and provoke critical reflection and debates about society directions and alternative visions (e.g., Rathwell and Armitage 2016, Brown et al. 2017; https://transitionnetwork.org). Read more ...

Testing the Potential of Multiobjective Evolutionary Algorithms (MOEAs) with Colorado Water Managers

Smith, R., J. Kasprzyk, and L. Dilling, 2019. Environmental Modelling & Software 117, doi: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2019.03.011.

articleAbstract: Multiobjective Evolutionary Algorithms (MOEAs) generate quantitative information about performance relationships between a system’s potentially conflicting objectives (termed tradeoffs). Research applications have suggested that evaluating tradeoffs can enhance long term water utility planning, but no studies have formally engaged with practitioners to assess their perceptions of tradeoffs generated by MOEAs. This article examines how practitioners interact with MOEA tradeoffs and reports their ideas for how their agencies could use MOEA results. We hosted a group of Colorado water managers at a charrette, or structured investigatory workshop, where they directly interacted with tradeoffs, discussed how they used the information, and linked their workshop experiences to opportunities for MOEAs to enhance their agencies’ planning processes. Among other interesting results, we found that managers’ portfolio preferences diverged as tradeoff information increased and that structured information about the relationships between decision levers and performance would be beneficial for interpreting tradeoffs. Read more ...

Personal Carbon Trading and Individual Mitigation Accountability

Vanderheiden, S., 2019. Chapter in Transformative Climates and Accountable Governance, Ed. B. Edmondson and S. Levy, 273-299, Palgrave Macmillan.

articleExcerpt: National carbon budgeting forms an essential component of international climate change mitigation efforts. Through it states track the carbon emissions for which they are responsible with a view toward meeting specified decarbonization targets. Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, state parties pledged to follow non-binding national carbon budgets through their Nationally Determined Contributions to international litigation efforts (NDCs). Through these, in principle, their contributions toward the goal of avoiding ‘dangerous anthropogenic interference’ (United Nations, 1992) could be assessed. In the absence of legally binding targets or guidelines for what constitutes an equitable contribution, reputitional accountability would presumably serve as both motive and enforcement mechanisms for states to adopt ambitious mitigation targets through their NDCs and to meet those targets by complying with their self-imposed carbon budgets. Concern for national standing and/or pressures from the ‘naming and shaming’ of unmet or inadequately ambitious NDCs would substitute for stronger accountability measures that were thought to be politically infeasible and thus committed from the convention. Preview the book.