The 4th workshop in Germany, one of the four case study areas of the MIRACLE project, was held on 24th February 2017. Project members and various stakeholders, such as members of farming unions and governmental representatives with an agricultural, environmental or water management background gathered in Magdeburg, Germany, to continue the discussions about various issues connected to the project's aims and subjects.
Besides of following up on the last workshop, discussing the updated hydro-modelling results, and looking at the way forward, a major part of the meeting took the presentation, discussion and verification of the cost structures of the different measures, and the preliminary Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) results. Stakeholders could for instance verify “our” average gross margin in the Selke river area (can be used as an estimate of farmers’ lost income due to implementing a certain measure), or our approach to define “contour ploughing” as cost-neutral. Other potential measures were identified as redundant, e.g. due to being implemented anyway, or due to being no longer supported by the CAP in this specific area. Furthermore, stakeholders offered to provide more specific cost data of some very specific measures (such as the “ventilation and treatment of mine water and mine water retention” or the “dismantling of transverse structures”).
While the CBA results are still broad and based on many assumptions, every stakeholder verification, comment or correction makes it possible to fill more and more gaps, and therefore generate results closer to reality - one step back, two steps forward.
In the end of August, the MIRACLE
project held its second PhD course in Kristianstad, Sweden, after holding one
on HYPE modelling in 2015. Over the course of seven days, nine PhD students from
seven different countries learned everything (well…almost) there is to know
about innovative governance approaches to water quality in a changing climate (with
a focus on the Baltic Sea region and the local Helge å river catchment, one of
MIRACLE’s case study areas). Appropriate for the flooding theme of MIRACLE, the
course venue was the ‘Räddningstjänsten’,
Kristianstad’s fire station.
The course activities, such as presentations, discussions, group work, calculations, excursions and field experiments, covered various subjects reflecting the work of the different work packages of the MIRACLE project. More specifically, topics included social learning, hydrological modelling, flood management, agricultural and environmental policies, and an introduction to environmental economics and socio-economic assessments. Or for the non-nerds: every participant now knows how to identify problems and issues, how to translate non-market goods into monetary values, and that the EU’s agri-environmental schemes aim to encourage farmers to protect and enhance the environment by performing agricultural practices that go beyond what is required by law (and, obviously, that the latter is also done by farmers entering in a five to seven year contract, which establishes reciprocal obligations for both parties and guarantees compensation to the farmer for the forgone income and cost incurred in implementing the agricultural practices specifically indicated).
Overall, a few of my main take-home messages
of the week can be described as follows:
- Complexity: Catchment water quality and biodiversity is a highly complex system with numberless interactions, interests and interconnections;
- System of various Interests: Social learning is a useful approach to address different needs, and generate or “dig out”, hidden knowledge;
- Every tool and information source is useful: Different (scientific) tools are highly valuable to stimulate social-learning processes and trust building, inform different stakeholders, and support decision making;
- Uncertainty & Subjectivity: Every tool, assessment or instrument brings a high degree of
uncertainty and has disadvantages. Method variations and
triangulations are essential to improve validity and reliability. However,
there is not a ’one and only’ answer- results depend upon individual needs,
interests and preferences.
Apart from summarising the respective
group work in a report and a final presentation, an individual report is
currently being written by every course participant, covering relevant issues dealing
with both the individual’s research interests and MIRACLE’s aims. My report
will, for instance, be on ‘Forest wetlands and improved fish migration routes -
An economic assessment of joint actions by the forest and hydropower sector in
the Helge å catchment, Southern Sweden’.