From scenario to roadmap: Design and evaluation of a web-based participatory watershed planning system for optimizing multistage implementation plans of management practices under stepwise investment

J Environ Manage. 2023 Sep 15:342:118280. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2023.118280. Epub 2023 Jun 3.


Planning multistage implementation plans, or roadmaps, based on the spatial distribution of a best management practice (BMP) scenario is essential for achieving watershed management goals under realistic conditions, such as stepwise investment plans that involve multiple stakeholders, including investors, economic and environmental beneficiaries. The state-of-the-art BMP roadmap optimization method can address this need for optimization but is over-specialized and complex to non-expert stakeholders. This study designed a user-friendly web-based participatory watershed planning system to assist a diverse group of stakeholders in reaching a consensus on optimal roadmaps. The participatory process of stakeholders includes iteratively proposing stepwise investment constraints, submitting roadmap optimization tasks, analyzing spatiotemporal results from multiple perspectives, and selecting preferred roadmaps. The proposed system design separates the participatory process of non-expert stakeholders from the specialized modeling process of constructing simulation-optimization tools for BMP roadmaps, which is done in advance by professional modelers and encapsulated as webservices on the server side. The webservices expose a small set of essential parameters to lower barriers to use. The interactive participatory process is presented to stakeholders through web browsers with an easy-to-use interface. The system design was evaluated by implementing an agricultural watershed planning system for soil erosion reduction and conducting a role-playing experiment involving three groups of stakeholders with different standpoints in proposing investment constraints. The experimental results show that the optimal roadmap sets exhibit progressive improvements across three-round optimizations started by different stakeholders, effectively capturing the varying perspectives of stakeholders and facilitating consensus-building among them. The idea of system design and example implementation can serve as a valuable reference for developing related user-friendly environmental decision support systems.

Keywords: Best management practice; Multistage implementation plan; Participatory modeling; Scenario optimization; Watershed planning.

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture* / methods
  • Computer Simulation
  • Internet*