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Coupled Natural and Human Systems CNHS: Linking land-use decision making, water quality, and lake associations to understand human-natural feedbacks in lake catchments

Kelly Cobourn, Cayelan Carey, Kevin Boyle, Reilly Henson (Virginia Tech) and others including Lars Rudstam and Randy Jackson (Funded by the National Science Foundation (2016-2020); administered through Virginia Tech)

Freshwater lakes and their catchments present a rich and fascinating opportunity to examine the dynamics of coupled natural and human systems (CNHS). To identify and quantify feedbacks between lake water quality and human behavior, we are developing a novel, coupled modeling framework that captures how land-use decision making interacts with hydrological and limnological processes to transform nutrient loads into changes in lake water quality, and how altered water quality feeds back to human systems by affecting the amenities that people value. Our coupled modeling framework will integrate key human and natural systems in three focal lake catchments, allowing us to investigate human-natural feedbacks in those catchments and to build on our understanding of those linkages to generate insight into CNHS at a broad scale. Our interdisciplinary team of scientists and community partners seek to comprehensively investigate the flows, nature, and extent of linkages among human and natural systems in three focal lake catchments, Oneida Lake, Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire and Lake Mendota in Wisconsin. Models of lake dynamics, watershed nutrient influx, crop dynamics, economics of crop choice selection, property price dependency on lake characteristics, and analysis of social interactions are proceeding. Most of the work to date was completed on Lakes Sunapee and Mendota.