Environmental Management

, Volume 58, Issue 2, pp 175–192 | Cite as

Advancing Environmental Flow Science: Developing Frameworks for Altered Landscapes and Integrating Efforts Across Disciplines

  • Shannon K. Brewer
  • Ryan A. McManamay
  • Andrew D. Miller
  • Robert Mollenhauer
  • Thomas A. Worthington
  • Tom Arsuffi


Environmental flows represent a legal mechanism to balance existing and future water uses and sustain non-use values. Here, we identify current challenges, provide examples where they are important, and suggest research advances that would benefit environmental flow science. Specifically, environmental flow science would benefit by (1) developing approaches to address streamflow needs in highly modified landscapes where historic flows do not provide reasonable comparisons, (2) integrating water quality needs where interactions are apparent with quantity but not necessarily the proximate factor of the ecological degradation, especially as frequency and magnitudes of inflows to bays and estuaries, (3) providing a better understanding of the ecological needs of native species to offset the often unintended consequences of benefiting non-native species or their impact on flows, (4) improving our understanding of the non-use economic value to balance consumptive economic values, and (5) increasing our understanding of the stakeholder socioeconomic spatial distribution of attitudes and perceptions across the landscape. Environmental flow science is still an emerging interdisciplinary field and by integrating socioeconomic disciplines and developing new frameworks to accommodate our altered landscapes, we should help advance environmental flow science and likely increase successful implementation of flow standards.


Environmental flows Human influence Altered landscapes Economic value of water 



This research is a contribution of the Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (U.S. Geological Survey, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Oklahoma State University, and Wildlife Management Institute cooperating) and several other Big XII Universities (Kansas State University, West Virginia University, University of Texas, Austin, University of Kansas, Texas Tech University, University of Oklahoma, and Baylor University). Funding was provided by the Oklahoma Water Resources Center housed in the Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources at Oklahoma State University. Any use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government. We thank Kansas University for organizing the Big XII Universities Water Workshop. We thank Garey Fox and two anonymous reviewers for providing helpful comments on an earlier draft.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York (outside the USA) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shannon K. Brewer
    • 1
  • Ryan A. McManamay
    • 2
  • Andrew D. Miller
    • 3
  • Robert Mollenhauer
    • 3
  • Thomas A. Worthington
    • 3
  • Tom Arsuffi
    • 4
  1. 1.U.S. Geological Survey, Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  2. 2.Oak Ridge National LaboratoryOak RidgeUSA
  3. 3.Oklahoma Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  4. 4.Texas Tech University Llano River Field StationJunctionUSA

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