Dealing with Water Conflicts: A Comprehensive Review of MCDM Approaches to Manage Freshwater Ecosystem Services

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This paper presents a comprehensive review of the application of Multiple-Criteria Decision-Making (MCDM) approaches exclusively to water-related freshwater ecosystem services. MCDM analysis has been useful in solving conflicts and it works well in this framework, given the serious conflicts historically associated with water use and the protection of freshwater ecosystems around the world. In this study, we present a review of 150 papers that proposed the use of MCDM-based methods for the social, economic, or ecological planning and management of water ecosystem services over the period 2000–2020. The analysis accounts for six elements: ecosystem service type, method, participation, biogeographical realm, waterbody type, and problem to solve. A Chi-square test was used to identify dependence between these elements. Studies involving the participation of stakeholder groups adopted an integrated approach to analysing sustainable water management, considering provisioning, regulating, and cultural services. However, such studies have been in decline since 2015, in favour of non-participatory studies that were strictly focused on ecological and provisioning issues. Although this reflects greater concern for the health of freshwater ecosystems, it is a long way removed from the essence of ecosystem services, which entails an integrated approach to the interrelationships between hydrology, landscapes, ecology, and humans.
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