Citizen science in hydrology and water resources: opportunities for knowledge generation, ecosystem service management, and sustainable development

Wouter Buytaert, Zed Zulkafli, Sam Grainger, Luis Acosta, Tilashwork C. Alemie, Johan Bastiaensen, Bert De Bièvre, Jagat Bhusal, Julian Clark, Art Dewulf, Marc Foggin, David M. Hannah (+10 others)
2014 Frontiers in Earth Science  
Citizen science for hydrology communication are opening new pathways for citizen science. Inexpensive yet robust sensors now can allow amateurs to collect large volumes of data and document them with appropriate metadata such as location and time. Information and communication technologies (ICT) facilitate the flow of data and knowledge, both for uploading collected data to centralized databases, and for querying datasets using rich and tailor-made interfaces. Lastly, communication technologies
more » ... cation technologies such as cellular networks and the internet also can allow for a much more dynamic and interactive approach to the formulation of hypotheses, research design, data analysis, and knowledge generation. The provision of water resources is one of the most fundamental ecosystem services for humanity. Hydrological science underpins most decision-making on water resources and is the basis for assessing risks related to water such as floods and droughts. But despite its critical societal relevance, this area of science is characterized by an acute scarcity of data in both the spatial and temporal domains (e.g., Hannah et al., 2011) , which contrasts significantly with the heterogeneity and complexity of actual water management and governing processes. As such, it is pertinent to reflect upon the potential role that citizen science could play in the generation of new knowledge in relation to the water cycle and related ecosystem services, and the use of citizen science in decision-making. This paper therefore aims to provide a critical review of the available literature on citizen science in a context of hydrology, water resources, and wider ecosystem services management, and to seek and develop a new perspective on the major challenges and opportunities that may lie ahead. Section 2 explores the philosophy and motivations behind the citizen science approach. Section 3 reviews existing citizen science applications in hydrology and water resources sciences. This is followed by an overview of some of the major challenges and opportunities for citizen science for ecosystem services management and sustainable development (Section 4). Lastly, in Section 5, we illustrate the discussed concepts by means of four case studies from remote mountain regions in Peru, Ethiopia, Nepal, and Kyrgyzstan, with different levels of citizen science activities and interests. In these regions, environmental pressures on ecosystem services are particularly acute and a lack of information on physical processes hinders the generation of relevant knowledge for adaptation. As a result, there may be a strong potential for citizen science to complement classic scientific knowledge generation and bring benefit to local stakeholders.
doi:10.3389/feart.2014.00026 fatcat:nogofxrbnbexhhl2qkmce2okly