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Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping

fuzzy cognitive mapping

To ensure sustainable water management and adaptation to the impacts of global change in the Mediterranean, the BeWater Project promotes dialogue and collaboration between science and society. This is done using an iterative process of mutual learning, participatory techniques and a bottom-up approach to ensure that stakeholders play an active role in determining appropriate strategies for management of river basins.

The BeWater Project team discussed with stakeholders in each basin the current state the expected impacts of climate change and other important factors to identify the main challenges that need to be addressed in each basin. Furthermore, potential water management options were identified to deal with the challenges. To be able to evaluate the water management options against the different challenges expressed by the stakeholders, the BeWater Project team adopted a novel method called Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping.

A Fuzzy Cognitive Map is a graphical representation of a system - in this case a river basin - where the components (factors) are represented as boxes and relationships as arrows. The arrows reflect the sign and strength of the relationships between the factors. The map is cognitive because it is a representation of a belief system, i.e. it represents the dynamics in a system based on the understanding of individuals. Fuzzy cognitive maps allow organizing all the information available on the basin to provide a clear understanding of the current status in the basin: main challenges at stake, drivers that influence them and their relationships in the system. The maps can be constructed with inputs from stakeholders from different backgrounds and therefore represent a method in line with the project philosophy.


Fuzzy Cognitive Map of Pedieos, Rmel, Tordera and Vipava river basins.

The BeWater project team adopted this method, because the graphical maps can be converted into simple mathematical models to be used for discussion and exploration of complex issues. In the BeWater Project, the maps were constructed using Mental ModelerModeler. The BeWater Project team used the maps to assess the impact of the water management options on the river basin. In this way, the BeWater Project team was able to produce a semi-quantitative estimate of the impact of water management options, as input to a Multi Criteria Analysis that was conducted in a series of Stakeholder Workshops.