Conflict in Paradise: Managing Watersheds on a Crowded Island (2015-11)

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Jun 15, 2016
Kirsten Oleson

Hawaiʻi is known for its abundant, beautiful natural resources, from waterfalls cascading through verdant rainforest to colorful coral reefs. These attract more tourists and new residents each year. Ironically, the resources are being loved to death: coastal development, land use change, water extraction, waste disposal, fishing, and habitat destruction to accommodate expanding human uses stress these valued fragile and finite environments, and often diminish the very ecosystem services people want to experience. This case study focuses on Maunalua Bay, which encompasses seven watersheds on Oʻahu, the most populated island in HI, USA. Students explore an active and contentious watershed management process, applying knowledge from multiple sources to characterize the social-environmental system and evaluate the trade-offs associated with economic development, biodiversity, social and indigenous cultural values, and different management approaches.

Estimated time frame: 
Multiple class periods
SES learning goals: 
  • Understand the structure and behavior of socio-environmental systems
  • Consider the importance of scale and context in addressing socio-environmental problems
  • Co-develop research questions and conceptual models in inter- or trans-disciplinary teams
  • Find, analyze, and synthesize existing data, concepts, or methods
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