The biodiversity of our rivers, lakes, and ponds has gone largely un-addressed in our efforts to predict the impacts of land development. Planners look at increased runoff and the potential for downstream flooding, and on pollutant discharges and contamination issues. The biodiversity of freshwater bodies is also impacted buy development and agricultural activities, but until now, there was no good way to predict what the impacts might be of land use changes.
A team of UW-Madison researchers is hoping to help change that narrative and add a little ecology to economic decision making by forecasting how future policies regarding urban development and agricultural cultivation may impact aquatic ecosystems, which harbor astounding amounts of biodiversity and provide humans with vital goods and services.
“The idea is to see what future land use changes may look like under different policies, and think about where potential threats to freshwater would be most severe,” says Sebastián Martinuzzi, a post-doctoral researcher. “We are not trying to predict the ‘true’ future, but rather to visualize potential economic trends and their environmental consequences.”