Watershed health and ecological security zoning throughout Iran

Sci Total Environ. 2023 Dec 20:905:167123. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.167123. Epub 2023 Sep 22.


Today, land degradation and the decrease in the expected services of watersheds have been mainly influenced by human-induced activities. Hence, it requires more attention to adaptively manage and provide feasible solutions to watershed disruptions. However, appropriate management of precious commodities such as water, soil, air, and vegetation cover needs insight planning on a proper scale. Nonetheless, such an integrated approach to comprehensive health assessment of watershed resources is yet to be indoctrinated by scholars, implemental agencies, managers, and policymakers. Accordingly, the present endeavor has tried to evaluate the health status of Iran's 30 second-order large watersheds with the pressure-state-response (PSR) approach. In this regard, 44 problem-oriented, influential, and, at the same time, accessible variables with compatible scales at the national level were primarily determined in climatic, hydrologic, anthropogenic, and natural sectors. The collinearity-free and independent variables were then finalized using the variance inflation factor (VIF) test. Ultimately, P, S, and R indices were calculated using the arithmetic mean of 25 normalized variables based on which PSR-based health and security indices were also mapped countrywide. The results indicated that P, S, and R indices varied from 0.49 to 0.69, 0.42 to 0.82, and 0.40 to 0.94, respectively. Health and security indices ranged from 0.46 to 0.69 and 0.30 to 0.89, respectively. The weighted mean of P, S, and R was 0.59, 0.62, and 0.67, respectively, wholly placing them in the intermediate class. The weighted health and security indices were also 0.58 and 0.59, representing the intermediate class. The results showed that study watersheds had different health and security conditions from interplaying watershed-specific factors. The results revealed the necessity of watershed-unique managerial strategies to cope with the existing unfavorable conditions at the country level. However, further insight with high resolution is recommended for the high-priority watersheds to plan implementation and executive projects.

Keywords: Comprehensive watershed planning; Healthy watershed; Integrated watershed management; Sustainable ecosystems; Watershed health monitoring.