A coupled human‐natural systems analysis of irrigated agriculture under changing climate
Abstract Exponentially growing water demands and increasingly uncertain hydrologic regimes due to changes in climate and land use are challenging the sustainability of agricultural water systems. Farmers must adapt their management strategies in order to secure food production and avoid crop failures. Investigating the potential for adaptation policies in agricultural systems requires accounting for their natural and human components, along with their reciprocal interactions. Yet this feedback is generally overlooked in the water resources systems literature. In this work, we contribute a novel modeling approach to study the coevolution of irrigated agriculture under changing climate, advancing the representation of the human component within agricultural systems by using normative meta‐models to describe the behaviors of groups of farmers or institutional decisions. These behavioral models, validated against observational data, are then integrated into a coupled human‐natural system simulation model to better represent both systems and their coevolution under future changing climate conditions, assuming the adoption of different policy adaptation options, such as cultivating less water demanding crops. The application to the pilot study of the Adda River basin in northern Italy shows that the dynamic coadaptation of water supply and demand allows farmers to avoid estimated potential losses of more than 10 M€/yr under projected climate changes, while unilateral adaptation of either the water supply or the demand are both demonstrated to be less effective. Results also show that the impact of the different policy options varies as function of drought intensity, with water demand adaptation outperforming water supply adaptation when drought conditions become more severe.
Key Points: We analyze the future coevolution of an irrigated agricultural district under climate change We advance the representation of human behaviors to better describe feedbacks between natural and human components of CHNS We study how the coadaptation of water supply and demand removes policy inertia
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