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Systematic evaluation of scenario assessments supporting sustainable integrated natural resources management: evidence from four case studies in Africa

Julia Reinhardt, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Potsdam, Germany
Stefan Liersch, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Potsdam, Germany
Mohamed Arbi Abdeladhim, Institut des Régions Arides, Médenine, Tunisia
Mori Diallo, Wetlands International Africa, Mali Office, Sévaré/Mopti, Mali
Chris Dickens, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Southern Africa Office, Pretoria, South Africa
Samuel Fournet, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Potsdam, Germany
Fred Fokko Hattermann, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Potsdam, Germany
Clovis Kabaseke, Mountains of the Moon University (MMU), Fort Portal, Uganda
Moses Muhumuza, Mountains of the Moon University (MMU), Fort Portal, Uganda
Marloes L. Mul, International Water Management Institute (IWMI), Regional Office West Africa, Accra, Ghana
Tobias Pilz, Institute of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany
Ilona M. Otto, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), Potsdam, Germany
Ariane Walz, Institute of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-09728-230105

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Abstract

Scenarios have become a key tool for supporting sustainability research on regional and global change. In this study we evaluate four regional scenario assessments: first, to explore a number of research challenges related to sustainability science and, second, to contribute to sustainability research in the specific case studies. The four case studies used commonly applied scenario approaches that are (i) a story and simulation approach with stakeholder participation in the Oum Zessar watershed, Tunisia, (ii) a participatory scenario exploration in the Rwenzori region, Uganda, (iii) a model-based prepolicy study in the Inner Niger Delta, Mali, and (iv) a model coupling-based scenario analysis in upper Thukela basin, South Africa. The scenario assessments are evaluated against a set of known challenges in sustainability science, with each challenge represented by two indicators, complemented by a survey carried out on the perception of the scenario assessments within the case study regions.
The results show that all types of scenario assessments address many sustainability challenges, but that the more complex ones based on story and simulation and model coupling are the most comprehensive. The study highlights the need to investigate abrupt system changes as well as governmental and political factors as important sources of uncertainty. For an in-depth analysis of these issues, the use of qualitative approaches and an active engagement of local stakeholders are suggested. Studying ecological thresholds for the regional scale is recommended to support research on regional sustainability. The evaluation of the scenario processes and outcomes by local researchers indicates the most transparent scenario assessments as the most useful. Focused, straightforward, yet iterative scenario assessments can be very relevant by contributing information to selected sustainability problems.

Key words

Africa; global and regional change; integrated assessments; participatory research; sustainability science

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087