The Dynamics of Multi-Scalar Adaptation in Megacities

Megacities (defined as cities with populations over 10 million) are highly vulnerable to environmental change but their size and complexity can make successful adaptation difficult. This interdisciplinary research project will study the challenge of reducing vulnerability to increased flooding, chronic water scarcity, and associated health problems in one of the world's largest metropolitan areas. Residents, businesses and public agencies in megacities respond to extremes in disparate and often uncoordinated ways, and these actions (such as changes in land use and infrastructure) may unintentionally create hazardous conditions in other parts of the city. The project will produce a dynamic systems model to explore how the individual responses of specific populations to different future scenarios of environmental change may affect one another and produce unintended consequences. As a decision-support tool, the model will enable decision-makers to test how altering risk-management priorities or adjusting the geographic focus of interventions aimed at dealing with changing climatic conditions could lead to improved overall results. The model will be developed for use in the study locale and would be readily adaptable for reducing risks from changing environmental conditions in complex urban environments across the globe.

The project will be implemented in close collaboration with the National Autonomous University of Mexico City and local stakeholders. Four case studies of vulnerable regions within Mexico City will be conducted to characterize the complexity of residents' experience of hazards and their response strategies. City-level analyses will capture the institutional context of decision -making and the mandates, intervention strategies, and priorities of city-level agencies and actors. A biophysical model will be developed to simulate the impact of land-use change and infrastructure modification on the city's hydro-climatic system. Agent-based modeling will be developed to simulate the responses of residents and city-level agencies to spatially differentiated hydro-climatic risk, with the outputs from this model linked to the hydro-climatic system. A geographic information system embedded in a multi-criteria decision-analysis framework will permit the exploration of different scenarios of hazard response in a spatially explicit manner, thereby facilitating decision making concerning adaptation to changing hydro-climatic conditions. The project will support the interdisciplinary and cross-cultural education and training of U.S. and Mexico.

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