Science-Narrative Explorations of “Drought Thresholds” in the Maritime Eden Catchment, Scotland: Implications for Local Drought Risk Management

Lindsey McEwen (Lead / Corresponding author), Kimberly Bryan, Andrew Black, James Blake, Muhammad Afzal

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    7 Citations (Scopus)
    99 Downloads (Pure)


    Drought in the United Kingdom is a “hidden” pervasive risk, defined and perceived in different ways by diverse stakeholders and sectors. Scientists and water managers distinguish meteorological, agricultural, hydrological, and socio-economic drought. Historically triggers in drought risk management have been demarcated solely in specialist hydrological science terms using indices and critical thresholds. This paper explores “drought thresholds” as a bridging concept for interdisciplinary science-narrative enquiry. The Eden catchment, Scotland acts as an exemplar, in a maritime country perceived as wet. The research forms part of creative experimentation in science-narrative methods played out in seven United Kingdom case-study catchments on hydro-meteorological gradients in the Drought Risk and You (DRY) project, with the agricultural Eden the most northerly. DRY explored how science and stories might be brought together to support better decision-making in United Kingdom drought risk management. This involved comparing specialist catchment-scale modelling of drought risk with evidence gathered from local narratives of drought perceptions/experiences. We develop the concept of thresholds to include perceptual triggers of drought awareness and impact within and between various sectors in the catchment (agriculture, business, health and wellbeing, public/communities, and natural and built environments). This process involved developing a framework for science-narrative drought “threshold thinking” that utilizes consideration of severity and scale, spatial and temporal aspects, framing in terms of enhancing or reducing factors internal and external to the catchment and new graphical methods. The paper discusses how this extended sense of thresholds might contribute to research and practice, involving different ways of linking drought severity and perception. This has potential to improve assessment of sectoral vulnerabilities, development of adaptive strategies of different stakeholders, and more tailored drought communication and messaging. Our findings indicate that drought risk presents many complexities within the catchment, given its cross-sectoral nature, rich sources of available water, variable prior drought experience among stakeholders, and different quantitative and perceptual impact thresholds across and within sectors. Fuzziness in identification of drought thresholds was multi-faceted for varied reasons. Results suggest that a management paradigm that integrates both traditional and non-traditional “fuzzy” threshold concepts across sectors should be integrated into current and future policy frameworks for drought risk management.
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number589980
    Number of pages25
    JournalFrontiers in Environmental Science
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Apr 2021


    • Scotland
    • decision-making
    • drought
    • indices
    • knowledge
    • memories
    • narrative
    • thresholds

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General Environmental Science


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