Case Studies in the Environment
A journal of peer reviewed environmental case studies


These manuscripts have been accepted for publication in Case Studies in the Environment, but have not been through the copyediting, typesetting, and proofreading process, which may lead to differences between these versions and the versions of record.

Accepted Manuscripts

Here are some  early examples of what a manuscript might look like. We will add more and different examples in the near future.

These manuscripts have been peer-reviewed and accepted for publication in Case Studies in the Environment, but have not been through the copyediting, typesetting, and proofreading process, which may lead to differences between these versions and the versions of record. The final edited and typeset versions of record will appear when we launch the full web site towards the end of March.

The challenges of regulating diffuse agricultural pollution to improve water quality: a science policy perspective on approaches to setting enforceable catchment load limits in New Zealand
Author: R Duncan, Lincoln University, New Zealand
Abstract: Worldwide, the cumulative effects of diffuse pollution arising from a range of human activities are diminishing the quality and ecosystem capacity of lakes, rivers, estuaries and oceans. Devising effective ways to regulate the causes and effects of diffuse pollution is a fraught legal, political, policy and management challenge given the difficulties in identifying and measuring who is responsible for what, where and when. In 2011, under its Resource Management Act, 1991, the South Pacific nation of New Zealand introduced national policy to arrest diffuse pollution with a requirement for local government to institute enforceable water quality and quantity limits on all freshwater bodies. The blueprint for these national freshwater policy reforms comes from its South Island region of Canterbury. Canterbury’s regional council has adopted a catchment load approach whereby an overarching limit on nutrient losses from agricultural land is calculated and linked to land use rules to control property-scale agricultural activities. With a focus on the Canterbury region, this case study examines two approaches to establishing a catchment load for diffuse nutrient pollution to link to legal provisions in its regional plan. One is based on a river’s nutrient concentrations and the other relies on predictive modelling. The case study opens important questions about measuring and regulating diffuse pollution and the difficulties faced by policy-makers and regulators in linking numbers to legally binding compliance and enforcement mechanisms, e.g. how to account for lag effects when establishing ‘in-stream’ limits and how to address changes in software when relying on ‘modelled’ limits?
Contains: Case study, case study questions

The campus wells program: preserving and re-tasking: monitoring wells in Boston, MA from campus construction for educational purposes
Authors: JR Cole, PS Rosen, Harvard University, Northeastern University - USA
Abstract: Using existing groundwater monitoring wells installed as part of engineering studies for construction and rehabilitation of campus buildings, undergraduate students at Northeastern University developed valuable, field-based insight into the physical meaning of mathematical models of groundwater movement and gained practical knowledge of professional practice. The Department arranged ongoing permission to access these wells and prevent them from being plugged once construction was completed. We compiled the existing long-term well data from both the University Physical Plant office and the geotechnical engineering firm who installed the wells, providing students with context for their field measurements in lab. This project gave undergraduate students in hydrogeology and introductory environmental geology courses an opportunity to learn about water quality issues, construction and excavation issues, and historical water table issues through analysis of the data. Close proximity of the wells to the classroom made possible independent student projects in hydrogeology. Through the Campus Wells Program, we involved the working community, including University Physical Plant staff and professional geologists in the geotechnical engineering consulting firm, in the learning process. Students recognize that their class laboratory exercises contribute real data to a long-term study of the hydrogeology of the campus, giving students buy-in to the project. The Campus Wells Program is a virtually cost-free, practice-oriented teaching opportunity that any university undergoing construction or site cleanup can potentially implement.
Contains: Case study, case study questions, teaching notes

Why Does the Regulated Harvest of Black Bears Affect the Rate of Human-Bear Conflicts in New Jersey? 
Authors: JD Raithel, MJ Reynolds-Hogland, PC Carr, LM Aubry, Utah State University, Bear Trust International, and New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife - USA
Abstract: Humanity has a miserable track record in conserving large carnivores: from Paleolithic hunters skinning the enormous cave lion 15,000 years ago to the contemporary loss of the marsupial Tasmanian tiger. Today, several iconic members of the order Carnivora are on the brink of extinction (Amur leopards, Asiatic cheetahs), and over 75% of the world’s 31 large carnivore species have experienced alarming population declines, often directly from human persecution. Yet, several species of large predators have dramatically rebounded (European gray wolf, American black bear) in the most unlikely of places: heavily human-dominated landscapes. For example, the black bear population in northwestern New Jersey (NJ), the state with the highest human densities in the USA, has exponentially increased over 6-fold in just 15 years. During this period of unprecedented suburban sprawl in NJ there have been over 26,500 reported human-bear interactions including seven attacks on humans and one human fatality. Given accelerating anthropogenic landscape transformation, there simply are not enough large tracts of wildlands remaining to alone support expanding bear populations. Thus, American black bear conservation in the Anthropocene may ultimately depend upon society’s tolerance for this large carnivore in areas where people live, work, and recreate. In an effort to curb bear population growth and reduce conflicts, the first regulated NJ black bear harvest in over three decades was held in 2003 resulting in an acrimonious public debate. How can objective population ecology help us make informed decisions about management actions that elicit such strong emotional responses among different stakeholder groups? Learning Outcomes: Students will evaluate how sex, age-class, and behavior (problem vs. normal) affect the probability that black bears in northwestern NJ die from harvest, lethal control, and other causes of mortality like vehicle strikes. Given these results, students will then propose possible explanations for the observed correlation between bear harvest rates and subsequent declines in nuisance bear behaviors reported. Informed by this remarkable dataset comprised of over 3,500 individual bears collected over 33 years, students will ultimately have a meaningful discussion about whether a carefully regulated bear harvest should be included in an integrated management strategy to conserve American black bears. 
Contains: Case study, case study questions, teaching notes, slides

Watershed Protection to Secure Ecosystem Services: The New York City Watershed Governance Arrangement 
Author: JW Hanlon, Northern Arizona University - USA
Abstract: In 1997, New York City and a group of smaller municipalities in the Catskills region of New York came to agree upon a novel and complex means of protecting water quality in the City’s upstate reservoirs. The Memorandum of Agreement they authored tied previously uncooperating governments to a new shared goal: preserve the ecological integrity of the Catskill and Delaware watersheds so that the City could avoid chemically filtering its municipal water. The agreement represents a policy experiment in reaction to a stark choice. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 1986 Surface Water Treatment Rule mandated that the City either filter its surface water supply or maintain a watershed control program to ensure the long–term protection of water quality in its source watersheds. The City decided to pursue a watershed control program in lieu of the more expensive filtration. The choice has led to a governing arrangement that has theoretical implications for how to simultaneously secure ecosystem services, promote rural livelihoods and produce the critical public good of potable water to millions of people. The policy solution displays how cooperative institutions may provide low-cost and low-tech solutions to environmental dilemmas to protect ecosystem services. However, over time, governing entities have faced challenges that raise questions about the durability of the arrangement. This case study explores those challenges to better elucidate the possibilities and pitfalls of watershed governance to secure ecosystem services. Learning Outcomes: Explain several legal and practical challenges of intergovernmental cooperation in the US. Define some key ecosystem services produced by protected watersheds. Identify major costs and benefits to different interest groups, political entities and populations of securing ecosystem services to produce public goods. Identify and describe economic, political, and cooperative challenges to payment for ecosystem services governance arrangements
Contains: Case study, case study questions

Woodland Rehabilitation and Biodiversity Conservation in an Agricultural Landscape in South Eastern Australia 
Authors: M Adams-Schimminger, G. Fifield, B Doran, and D Freudenberger, Australian National University and Greening Australia - Australia
Abstract: Southern Australia has a tree crisis. The iconic and ecologically essential eucalypt trees are dying out across vast swathes of farmland that were once grassy woodlands. A century of clearing and agricultural intensification, plus the failure of these trees to self-regenerate, has led to a massive loss of wildlife habitat, particularly tree hollows that only form in large and old Eucalyptus trees. Just as importantly, this decline in trees has exposed farmers to losses of agricultural productivity. There is now a lack of shelter for livestock. Rising salty ground water is degrading pastures as this ground water is no longer being controlled by the deep roots and respiration of eucalypts. We describe the research that is showing how an innovative partnership between farmers, a non-government environmental organisation, and government funding is rehabilitating entire fields to a productive and wildlife rich woodland full of thriving eucalypts. Learning Outcomes: This case study is an example of the benefits of a sustained and diverse collaboration between farmers, a non-government environmental organisation, a variety of researchers with complementary skills, and with support from national government funding programs. This collaboration is achieving remarkable results. It is greatly enhancing the conservation of biodiversity, as well as improving commercial farm productivity and sustainability. This case study provides a solution to a global challenge faced by all societies dependent on agriculture – sustainable farming and cost-effective biodiversity conservation in the same place.
Contains: Case study, case study questions, slides

Vickers Hot Springs: Ecotopia or Tragedy of the Commons? 
Author: J Bernstein, University of Hawaii at Manoa - USA
Abstract: Vickers Hot Springs is located near the rural Southern California town of Ojai, and local residents have long enjoyed soaking in the sulfuric pools. But as knowledge of the springs spread, the area saw increases in fights, traffic, burglaries, and drug use. In response, two residents purchased the land and committed to restoring the property while allowing limited public access, subsequently generating a great deal of controversy within the community. Privatizing Vickers Hot Springs follows the archetypical lesson of Garrett Hardin’s 1968 essay, The Tragedy of the Commons. Hardin stated that the problem for common pool resources was that a finite amount of services are demanded by a potentially infinite number of users, who have little to gain by sacrificing for the common good. But Hardin’s theory does not always apply. Many communities have come together to manage resources, often without government oversight. Thus the question is not whether or Hardin’s theory is accurate, but rather “under what conditions it is correct and when it makes the wrong predictions” (Ostrom, 2008). Case studies provide nuance to the broad-brush strokes of a theory, and whether Hardin’s parable is applicable depends on the particularities of the common property resource conflict. Employing the frameworks established by Hardin (1968), Dietz et al. (2003), and Ostrom (1990), this paper examines the management of Vickers Hot Springs within its broader social, ecological, and political context, asking whether the particular circumstances of this resource use conflict made privatization inevitable. Learning Outcomes: Students will be able to contrast Garret Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons theory with counter-theories showing how common pool resource management can be successful. They will become familiar with the specific criteria enabling successful common pool resource management, and will see them applied to a case study. At the conclusion of the lesson, instead of supporting or refuting Hardin’s theory on principle they will be able to identify exactly why privatization or community management proved successful in a particular circumstance.
Contains: Case study, case study questions

A Case of Using Property Rights to Manage Natural Resources: Land Reform in the Godzone 
Author: A Brower, Lincoln University, Christchurch - New Zealand
Abstract: This article presents a case of using property rights to govern land use in the high country of New Zealand’s South Island. It tells the story of a land reform policy and its implementation over two decades, through changes in rules and governing parties. It observes land reform outcomes that are surprisingly favourable to pastoral leaseholders, and surprisingly unfavourable to the Crown. It then explores several possible explanations, including the logic of collective action, bargaining dynamics, principal-agent problems, and ideas of ownership. It concludes that John Locke’s labour theory of property holds sway in New Zealand’s land reform, despite what the law prescribes. This raises questions about whether using property rights to manage land use meets the ‘3 Es’ of good policy – effectiveness, efficiency, and equity. Learning Outcomes: Students will gain insight into the power, promises, and perils of using a property rights approach to manage land and natural resources.
Contains: Case study, case study questions


Submit your case



We hope these sample manuscripts will inspire you to submit your own manuscript for review. Do you have questions before or during your manuscript submission? Get in touch with Liba Hladik, our friendly Managing Editor, to work it out.


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