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Revealing Invisible Water: Moisture Recycling as an Ecosystem Service
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre. Colorado State University, USA.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre. Delft University of Technology, The Netherlands.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
Number of Authors: 3
2016 (English)In: PLoS ONE, ISSN 1932-6203, E-ISSN 1932-6203, Vol. 11, no 3, e0151993Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

An ecosystem service is a benefit derived by humanity that can be traced back to an ecological process. Although ecosystem services related to surface water have been thoroughly described, the relationship between atmospheric water and ecosystem services has been mostly neglected, and perhaps misunderstood. Recent advances in land-atmosphere modeling have revealed the importance of terrestrial ecosystems for moisture recycling. In this paper, we analyze the extent to which vegetation sustains the supply of atmospheric moisture and precipitation for downwind beneficiaries, globally. We simulate land-surface evaporation with a global hydrology model and track changes to moisture recycling using an atmospheric moisture budget model, and we define vegetation-regulated moisture recycling as the difference in moisture recycling between current vegetation and a hypothetical desert world. Our results show that nearly a fifth of annual average precipitation falling on land is from vegetation-regulated moisture recycling, but the global variability is large, with many places receiving nearly half their precipitation from this ecosystem service. The largest potential impacts for changes to this ecosystem service are land-use changes across temperate regions in North America and Russia. Likewise, in semi-arid regions reliant on rainfed agricultural production, land-use change that even modestly reduces evaporation and subsequent precipitation, could significantly affect human well-being. We also present a regional case study in the Mato Grosso region of Brazil, where we identify the specific moisture recycling ecosystem services associated with the vegetation in Mato Grosso. We find that Mato Grosso vegetation regulates some internal precipitation, with a diffuse region of benefit downwind, primarily to the south and east, including the La Plata River basin and the megacities of Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. We synthesize our global and regional results into a generalized framework for describing moisture recycling as an ecosystem service. We conclude that future work ought to disentangle whether and how this vegetationregulated moisture recycling interacts with other ecosystem services, so that trade-offs can be assessed in a comprehensive and sustainable manner.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2016. Vol. 11, no 3, e0151993
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-129674DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0151993ISI: 000372694700091PubMedID: 26998832OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-129674DiVA: diva2:930343
Available from: 2016-05-23 Created: 2016-04-27 Last updated: 2016-08-11Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. The Precipitationshed: Concepts, Methods, and Applications
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The Precipitationshed: Concepts, Methods, and Applications
2016 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Human societies are reliant on the functioning of the hydrologic cycle. The atmospheric branch of this cycle, often referred to as moisture recycling in the context of land-to-land exchange, refers to water evaporating, traveling through the atmosphere, and falling out as precipitation. Similar to the surface water cycle that uses the watershed as the unit of analysis, it is also possible to consider a ‘watershed of the sky’ for the atmospheric water cycle. Thus, I explore the precipitationshed - defined as the upwind surface of the Earth that provides evaporation that later falls as precipitation in a specific place. The primary contributions of this dissertation are to (a) introduce the precipitationshed concept, (b) provide a quantitative basis for the study of the precipitationshed, and (c) demonstrate its use in the fields of hydrometeorology, land-use change, social-ecological systems, ecosystem services, and environmental governance.

In Paper I, the concept of the precipitationshed is introduced and explored for the first time. The quantification of precipitationshed variability is described in Paper II, and the key finding is that the precipitationsheds for multiple regions are persistent in time and space. Moisture recycling is further described as an ecosystem service in Paper III, to integrate the concept into the existing language of environmental sustainability and management. That is, I identify regions where vegetation more strongly regulates the provision of atmospheric water, as well as the regions that more strongly benefit from this regulation. In Paper IV, the precipitationshed is further explored through the lens of urban reliance on moisture recycling. Using a novel method, I quantify the vulnerability of urban areas to social-ecological changes within their precipitationsheds. In Paper V, I argue that successful moisture recycling governance will require flexible, transboundary institutions that are capable of operating within complex social-ecological systems. I conclude that, in the future, the precipitationshed can be a key tool in addressing the complexity of social-ecological systems. 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, 2016. 54 p.
Keyword
water, atmosphere, precipitationshed, moisture recycling, variability, ecosystem services, social-ecological systems
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-132375 (URN)978-91-7649-464-6 (ISBN)
External cooperation:
Public defence
2016-09-29, Vivi Täckholmsalen (Q-salen), NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 4: Manuscript. Paper 5: Manuscript.

 

Available from: 2016-09-06 Created: 2016-08-11 Last updated: 2016-08-25Bibliographically approved

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