Robyn Wilson with the School of Environment and Natural Resources at OSU
Management of eutrophication in aquatic systems is complicated in part by the need for changes in behavior in the upstream system, when the downstream system is both distant in space and slow to respond. To address this socioecological system challenge, the behavioral mechanisms that drive change at the individual level must be considered when designing policy goals. This analysis explores the the likelihood of achieving policy targets for nutrient reduction in aquatic systems from a behavioral perspective, by identifying the beliefs that are critical to behavioral change and the degree to which changing these beliefs would reduce nutrient loading to recommended levels. We find that for the case of Lake Erie, not only are agricultural practices available that would reduce phosphorus loading by the recommended 40% from 2008 levels, but that adoption of such practices is possible by increasing the efficacy of the majority of farmers who are motivated to take action. Addressing the behavioral mechanisms driving water quality issues in the Great Lakes will become increasingly important under future climate variability.