Themes

Human-Environment Systems science addresses major sustainability challenges. Below are several themes that members of the center are currently investigating. These themes cut across disciplines and are inter-related. Finding solutions to problems associated with these themes will help steer society on a sustainable path.

Agricultural Decisions and Future Water Use
Agricultural Decisions and Future Water Use

In many water-stressed areas of the world, the primary consumptive use of water is agricultural production.

In many water-stressed areas of the world, the primary consumptive use of water is agricultural production. The decisions farmers make regarding what they grow on the landscape strongly influences how much water they consume. In this project, we are developing an integrative model of water use that includes the stressors of climate and land use change with farm-level crop choice decisions. This model will help better predict how we will use water into the future and how decisions we make will impact that future.

Ecosystem Services Supply and Demand
Ecosystem Services Supply and Demand

Idaho’s landscapes provide a variety of environmental benefits that contribute to human well-being, including clean water, the production of food, and outdoor recreation.

Idaho’s landscapes provide a variety of environmental benefits that contribute to human well-being, including clean water, the production of food, and outdoor recreation. We are conducting a research project to understand how those environmental benefits may change in the future, as the population increases and urban developments expand into agricultural and open lands. We are interviewing ~ 500 Treasure Valley residents, to identify which environmental benefits are most important for their well-being. The overall objective of our interviews is to gather useful information that will be incorporated into land use policy and decision-making processes.

Gorongosa Wildlife Recovery
Gorongosa Wildlife Recovery

Our research team is partnering with the Gorongosa Lion Project in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique to aid the restoration of large herbivore and carnivore species there.

Our research team is partnering with the Gorongosa Lion Project in Gorongosa National Park, Mozambique to aid the restoration of large herbivore and carnivore species there. The park’s wildlife populations declined dramatically following a devastating civil war in Mozambique. Now, the Greg Carr Foundation is leading a massive ecosystem recovery effort in Gorongosa that will benefit both human wellbeing and biodiversity. Using data from GPS collars and camera traps, we are currently investigating what factors encourage or limit (e.g., snaring, prey abundance, water availability) the recovery of terrestrial mammal species in the Greater Gorongosa Ecosystem. In the future we will use human-environment systems science to develop a greater understanding of the human drivers of ecosystem change in the area and how those changes in turn affect local human communities. The HES Center is excited to be a partner in this important research and conservation endeavor.

Himalayan Forest Conservation
Himalayan Forest Conservation

A key challenge for Earth system sustainability is to balance human needs with healthy ecosystems.

A key challenge for Earth system sustainability is to balance human needs with healthy ecosystems. Sustainable development strategies strive to mitigate the environmental degradation that results from population growth and economic development. The overarching goal of our work in the Himalaya is to improve our ability to assess impacts of sustainable development policy on the environment. The High Himalaya is an excellent natural laboratory for our research because Himalayan temperate forests are one of the most threatened biomes on earth, and diverse sustainable development strategies have been implemented in varied socio-political contexts.