Special Issue "Towards Sustainable Land-Water Interactions in the Anthropocene: The Role of Stakeholder Engagement and Participatory Modelling"

A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2020).

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Moira Zellner
Guest Editor
Associate Professor in Urban Planning and Policy, Research Associate Professor in the Institute of Environmental Science and Policy, Director of the Urban Data Visualization Lab; University of Illinois, Chicago, USA
Interests: environmental planning and policy; participatory modelling; complex systems modelling; coupled human–natural systems
Dr. Juan Carlos Castilla-Rho
Guest Editor
Lecturer in Environmental and Participatory Systems Modelling, School of Information, Systems and Modelling, University of Technology Sydney (UTS) NSW 2007 Australia
Interests: Socio-hydrology; participatory modelling; complex systems; management flight simulators; agent-based modelling; computational social science

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Land, water, and society are intrinsically interconnected through the metabolism of human activity, influenced by demographic shifts and economic development, urbanization and agricultural expansion, the extraction of natural resources and the production of waste. Human activities are capable of altering how water flows through the landscape, affecting its quantity and quality at an unprecedented scale. To understand the full dimension of land-water interactions in the Anthropocene, and to use this understanding to inform management, it is therefore, necessary to integrate knowledge from fields as diverse as hydrology, soil science, human geography, economics, anthropology, law, and human behavior. There is also an increasing awareness that early and meaningful engagement of stakeholders in decision-making is essential to find successful and implementable pathways supportive of sustainable and resilient futures. Our ability to tackle this multifaceted theme in a comprehensive, robust, and systematic manner is still limited. To move forward, the following questions need to be answered:

  • (Understanding the system) How can we integrate and/or extend frameworks such as socio-hydrology, telecoupling, collaborative rationality, and adaptive management to support fair, responsible, and sustainable relationships among people, land, and water?
  • (The role of biases, beliefs, values, heuristics) Who are the key actors and governing institutions? What services do these actors extract from land and water systems? What are the actors’ goals, objectives, and strategies, and what resources do they have to pursue them? How can we elicit and identify the biases, beliefs, values, and heuristics (BBVH) that either hinder or enable transitions towards sustainable land–water interactions? How can we steer BBHV to achieve better outcomes? How do stakeholders quantify and decide among trade-offs attached to various land and water management strategies? Who are the winners and losers, and how are any imbalances addressed?
  • (Modelling the system) What theories, tools, and techniques are needed to conceptualize land–water–human interactions? What are their key strengths and weaknesses, particularly when brought into a stakeholder engagement or participatory modelling process?
  • (The role of modelling) What is the role of modelling in developing a collaborative land–water science program? How does early engagement of stakeholders with scientific models of land–water interactions improve decision-making? What are the potential benefits and drawbacks of gamification?
  • (The role of model-enhanced stakeholder engagement) How should we design and facilitate participatory processes to improve sustainability outcomes in land-water-human systems? Which participatory modelling methods are more or less amenable to different types of stakeholders involved in land–water interactions? What are the best tools for the job in different geographical and cultural contexts? How should we follow-through on action plans?

We highly encourage submission of integrative studies that combine insights from environmental modelling and behavioral science. In doing so, this Special Issue aims to shed light on how stakeholder engagement and collaborative approaches can help disentangle the complexity of land–water–human interactions at local, national, and global levels.

Dr. Moira Zellner
Dr. Juan Carlos Castilla-Rho
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Land is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Anthropocene
  • socio-hydrology
  • telecoupling
  • nexus
  • human behaviour
  • collaborative governance
  • participatory modelling
  • coupling human-natural systems

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessArticle
A Comprehensive Process for Stakeholder Identification and Engagement in Addressing Wicked Water Resources Problems
Land 2020, 9(4), 119; https://doi.org/10.3390/land9040119 - 14 Apr 2020
Various sectors of stakeholders (urban, agricultural, policymakers, etc.) are frequently engaged in participatory research projects aimed at improving water resources’ sustainability. However, a process for comprehensive and integrative identification, classification, and engagement of all types of water stakeholders for a region or river [...] Read more.
Various sectors of stakeholders (urban, agricultural, policymakers, etc.) are frequently engaged in participatory research projects aimed at improving water resources’ sustainability. However, a process for comprehensive and integrative identification, classification, and engagement of all types of water stakeholders for a region or river basin, especially in a transboundary context, is missing for water resources research projects. Our objective was to develop a systematic approach to identifying and classifying water stakeholders, and engage them in a discussion of water futures, as a foundation for a participatory modeling research project to address the wicked water resource problems of the Middle Rio Grande basin on the U.S./Mexico border. This part of the Rio Grande basin can be characterized as having limited and dwindling supplies of water, increasing demands for water from multiple sectors, and a segmented governance system spanning two U.S. states and two countries. These challenges are being exacerbated by climate change; a transitioning agriculture to more water demanding, high value crops; urbanization; and growing demand for environmental services. Moving forward, a core question for this region is how can water be managed so that the three competing sectors—agricultural, urban, and environmental—can realize a sustainable future in this challenged water system? We identified the major water-using sectors who represent competing demands as including agricultural, municipal, self-supplied industrial users, environmental, and a sector we labeled “social justice”, comprised of individuals who lack access to potable water, or who represent groups who advocate for access to water. We included stakeholders from both the U.S. and Mexico, which is seldom done, who share transboundary water resources in the region. We hosted a series of stakeholder dialogues and obtained results that identified and described their vision for the future of water; challenges to be overcome; and important research questions that could be addressed using participatory modeling approaches. Four broad themes common to multiple sectors emerged: (1) quantity, drought, and scarcity; (2) quality/salinization; (3) urbanization; and (4) conservation and sustainability. Each sector expressed distinctive views regarding the future of water. Agricultural stakeholders, in particular, had strong feelings of ownership of water rights as part of land ownership and a concomitant sense of threat to those water rights emanating from dwindling supplies and competing demands. The contribution of this work is a methodology for identifying, classifying, and engaging all types of stakeholders in the context of a research project, enabling us to compare and contrast views of different types of stakeholders. Heretofore, this has been accomplished in “bits and pieces”, but never comprehensively and holistically. Full article
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