REACH (REsilience under Accelerated CHange) is a multi-institution, interdisciplinary effort led by the University of Minnesota, with the overall goal to develop a “framework” within which the vulnerabilities of a natural-human system can be assessed to guide decision-making towards sustainability and resilience. A unique element of the framework is identifying and focusing on places, times, and processes of accelerated or amplified change. One specific hypothesis to be tested is that of Human Amplified Natural Change (HANC), which states that areas of the landscape that are most susceptible to human, climatic, and other external changes are those that are undergoing the highest natural rates of change. To test the HANC hypothesis and turn it into a useful paradigm for enabling water sustainability studies, a predictive understanding of the cascade of changes and local amplifications between climatic, human, hydrologic, geomorphologic, and biologic processes are being developed to identify “hot spots” of sensitivity to change and inform mitigation activities.

The developed framework is being tested in the Minnesota River Basin (MRB) where pervasive landscape disturbances due to geological history and human actions are affecting changes in ecosystem health and water quantity and quality. Underlying our research efforts are the following science questions (hypotheses): (1) What are the major drivers of change in the MRB, and how do natural and anthropogenic changes interact, propagate and amplify across scales and across processes (physical, biological, and socio-economic)? (2) How can the history and present state of landscape organization inform the identification of “hot spots” of change? (3) What modeling frameworks (from fully distributed to reduced complexity network-based models) can capture the cascade of physical, biological, and socio-economic changes in data-limited environments and for short to long-term predictions? and (4) How can policy and management decisions be informed by understanding the system vulnerabilities and the places/times most sensitive to change? In other words, how can we preserve and improve water quality, ecosystem functioning, and resilience while still meeting the needs of ecosystems and society?



REACH-logoREACH is funded by the National Science Foundation under the Water Sustainablility and Climate (WSC) program under grant DEB-1209402. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.nsf-logo