Advancing environmental flow science: developing frameworks for altered landscapes and integrating efforts across disciplines.
Environmental flows represent a legal mechanism to balance existing and future water uses and sustain non-use values. Here, we identify current challenges, provide examples where they are important, and suggest research advances that would benefit environmental flow science. Specifically, environmental flow science would benefit by (1) developing approaches to address streamflow needs in highly modified landscapes where historic flows do not provide reasonable comparisons, (2) integrating water quality needs where interactions are apparent with quantity but not necessarily the proximate factor of the ecological degradation, especially as frequency and magnitudes of inflows to bays and estuaries, (3) providing a better understanding of the ecological needs of native species to offset the often unintended consequences of benefiting non-native species or their impact on flows, (4) improving our understanding of the non-use economic value to balance consumptive economic values, and (5) increasing our understanding of the stakeholder socioeconomic spatial distribution of attitudes and perceptions across the landscape. Environmental flow science is still an emerging interdisciplinary field and by integrating socioeconomic disciplines and developing new frameworks to accommodate our altered landscapes, we should help advance environmental flow science and likely increase successful implementation of flow standards.