Policy makers are facing challenges of managing complex urban and environmental systems influenced by global factors. These factors include population growth, migration, recession, climate change as well as actions by local actors such as parties or companies who direct the development according to their own vested interest which may not conform with a broader public interest. One of the key challenges for a sustainable future is to manage population growth, with its resulting issues of transportation and food production and relevant land use changes with minimal adverse impacts on environment. Rapid urbanization, drastic increase of number of vehicles and growing agriculture can substantially impact on air and water quality in a region. Agricultural activities may degrade water quality through excessive soil loss or export of fertilizers and pesticides. Whereas, urbanization increases the impervious area resulting in higher flows and more contaminants that have a negative effect on stream water quality; while, growth in number of vehicles increases emissions negatively effecting on air quality in the region.
Confronted with such complexity, decision makers need adequate tools to better understand and evaluate the effects of policy interventions in urban regions. Such pressure already led to the development of numerous mathematical and geospatial models covering various discipline-specific areas. However, the interconnected character of human and natural systems requires an integrated decision making and therefore – integrated modeling linking different disciplines.
Developing a new state-of-the-art comprehensive model integrating various disciplines is an expensive process and can take years. Instead, coupling already existing and tested models for a region may offer an effective and a quick solution to support integrated decision making. This project develops a model coupling approach and demonstrates it through practical applications in two study regions: the Baltimore-Washington Region in USA and the Greater Dublin Region in Ireland.