There is an emerging and urgent need for new approaches for the management of environmental challenges such as flood hazard in the broad context of sustainability. This requires a new way of working which bridges disciplines and organisations, and that breaks down science-culture boundaries. With this, there is growing recognition that the appropriate involvement of local communities in catchment management decisions can result in multiple benefits. However, new tools are required to connect organisations and communities. The growth of cloud based technologies offers a novel way to facilitate this process of exchange of information in environmental science and management; however, stakeholders need to be engaged with as part of the development process from the beginning rather than being presented with a final product at the end.Here we present the development of a pilot Local Environmental Virtual Observatory Flooding Tool. The aim was to develop a cloud based learning platform for stakeholders, bringing together fragmented data, models and visualisation tools that will enable these stakeholders to make scientifically informed environmental management decisions at the local scale. It has been developed by engaging with different stakeholder groups in three catchment case studies in the UK and a panel of national experts in relevant topic areas. However, these case study catchments are typical of many northern latitude catchments. The tool was designed to communicate flood risk in locally impacted communities whilst engaging with landowners/farmers about the risk of runoff from the farmed landscape. It has been developed iteratively to reflect the needs, interests and capabilities of a wide range of stakeholders. The pilot tool combines cloud based services, local catchment datasets, a hydrological model and bespoke visualisation tools to explore real time hydrometric data and the impact of flood risk caused by future land use changes. The novel aspects of the pilot tool are; the co-evolution of tools on a cloud based platform with stakeholders, policy and scientists; encouraging different science disciplines to work together; a wealth of information that is accessible and understandable to a range of stakeholders; and provides a framework for how to approach the development of such a cloud based tool in the future. Above all, stakeholders saw the tool and the potential of cloud technologies as an effective means to taking a whole systems approach to solving environmental issues. This sense of community ownership is essential in order to facilitate future appropriate and acceptable land use management decisions to be co-developed by local catchment communities. The development processes and the resulting pilot tool could be applied to local catchments globally to facilitate bottom up catchment management approaches.
Journal of Environmental Management – Elsevier
Published: Sep 15, 2015
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