, Volume 44, Issue 5, pp 367–375 | Cite as

Managing water services in tropical regions: From land cover proxies to hydrologic fluxes

  • Alexandra G. Ponette-GonzálezEmail author
  • Kate A. Brauman
  • Erika Marín-Spiotta
  • Kathleen A. Farley
  • Kathleen C. Weathers
  • Kenneth R. Young
  • Lisa M. Curran


Watershed investment programs frequently use land cover as a proxy for water-based ecosystem services, an approach based on assumed relationships between land cover and hydrologic outcomes. Water flows are rarely quantified, and unanticipated results are common, suggesting land cover alone is not a reliable proxy for water services. We argue that managing key hydrologic fluxes at the site of intervention is more effective than promoting particular land-cover types. Moving beyond land cover proxies to a focus on hydrologic fluxes requires that programs (1) identify the specific water service of interest and associated hydrologic flux; (2) account for structural and ecological characteristics of the relevant land cover; and, (3) determine key mediators of the target hydrologic flux. Using examples from the tropics, we illustrate how this conceptual framework can clarify interventions with a higher probability of delivering desired water services than with land cover as a proxy.


Hydrology Land use Payments for watershed services Tropical ecosystems Watershed management 



The authors thank Leah L. Bremer for insightful comments and suggestions on this manuscript. This research was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation (to A.G. Ponette-González and K.C. Weathers, OISE #1132444; and to K.R. Young, CNH#1010381 and DEB #1146446), and NASA (L.M. Curran and A.G. Ponette-González, NASA NNX11AF08G, NASA GRFP NX08AY29H). Funding to K.A. Brauman was provided by the UMN Institute on the Environment.

Supplementary material

13280_2014_578_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (57 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 57 kb)


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Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alexandra G. Ponette-González
    • 1
    Email author
  • Kate A. Brauman
    • 2
  • Erika Marín-Spiotta
    • 3
  • Kathleen A. Farley
    • 4
  • Kathleen C. Weathers
    • 5
  • Kenneth R. Young
    • 6
  • Lisa M. Curran
    • 7
    • 8
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of North TexasDentonUSA
  2. 2.Institute on the EnvironmentUniversity of MinnesotaSt PaulUSA
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  4. 4.Department of GeographySan Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  5. 5.Cary Institute of Ecosystem StudiesMillbrookUSA
  6. 6.Department of Geography and the EnvironmentUniversity of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  7. 7.Woods Institute for the EnvironmentStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  8. 8.Department of AnthropologyStanford UniversityStanfordUSA

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