Experiences with a Transdisciplinary Research Approach for Integrating Ecosystem Services into Water Management in Northwest China

  • Tuck Fatt Siew
  • Petra Döll
  • Hamid Yimit
Part of the Springer Water book series (SPWA)


Consideration of the relatively new concept of ecosystem services (ESS) in management decisions calls for a transdisciplinary research (TR) approach that aims at integration of knowledge among scientists from multiple disciplines and stakeholders from multiple sectors. In this paper, we present our experiences with the implementation of a TR approach to support the integration of ESS into land and water management under climate change in the arid Tarim River Basin, Northwest China (SuMaRiO project). Our initial TR approach focused on the execution of a stakeholder dialogue (15–20 interviews and five workshops, including participatory modeling) to integrate stakeholder knowledge with research results from SuMaRiO scientists. In the first project phase, the approach was adapted by adding a stakeholder analysis, with explicit efforts to integrate knowledge among the multidisciplinary German scientists, and between German and Chinese scientists. Two key stakeholders from the water sector, together with other representatives of governmental organizations from the sector crop production, animal husbandry, environment, and forestry, were involved in the TR process. The applied TR approach resulted in an improved understanding on issues related to land and water management as well as ESS, and a joint problem perception of stakeholders and scientists. Based on the overall perception graph and discussion with stakeholders and scientists, gaps in the present knowledge related to water and ESS were identified. Chinese stakeholders and scientists appreciated that the TR process facilitated cross-sectoral and multi-disciplinary communication and knowledge exchange. TR (including methods of knowledge elicitation and integration) needs to be continually adapted in reaction to the challenges encountered in the socio-cultural and institutional setting in the study area. Explicit efforts of network and trust building are a prerequisite for TR, in particular in China.


Riparian Vegetation Workshop Participant Governmental Organization Chinese Scientist Stakeholder Analysis 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The authors would like to thank all Sustainable Management of River Oases along the Tarim River (SuMaRiO) project members and Chinese counterparts for their input and assistance. Special appreciation is also extended to our project partner and the team who help organize interviews and stakeholder workshops in Xinjiang. We also thank the reviewers for their valuable comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Goethe University FrankfurtFrankfurtGermany
  2. 2.Xinjiang Normal UniversityUrumqiPeople’s Republic of China

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