Recommended Readings

The recommended reading list is a collection journal articles, books, and reports that the Watershed Health Assessment Framework team recommends. The readings are intended to foster a better understanding of the key concepts related to watershed health. Each referenced resource includes a citation, key points that the resource provides, and an abstract when it is available. These resources are recommended as reference materials with the understanding that the assumption and conclusions are those of the authors. 


Wu, J. (2013). Landscape sustainability science: Ecosystem services and human well-being in changing landscapes. Landscape Ecology28(6), 999–1023.

Key Points:

  • A must-read for anyone wanting to learn more about the concepts of ecosystem sustainability.
  • Provides a comparison of several policy perspectives on sustainability and establishes definitions for terminology relating to sustainability science. 
  • Through an exploration of terminology the readers gains exposure to key concepts and are intrduced to several authors and institutions influential to sustainability science. 
  • Contains a clear overview of the key concepts relating to ecosystem sustainability science and an understanding of how the key concepts fit together.


The future of humanity depends on whether or not we have a vision to guide our transition toward sustainability, on scales ranging from local landscapes to the planet as a whole. Sustainability science is at the core of this vision, and landscapes and regions represent a pivotal scale domain. The main objectives of this paper are: (1) to elucidate key definitions and concepts of sustainability, including the Brundtland definition, the triple bottom line, weak and strong sustainability, resilience, human well-being, and ecosystem services; (2) to examine key definitions and concepts of landscape sustainability, including those derived from general concepts and those developed for specific landscapes; and (3) to propose a framework for developing a science of landscape sustainability. Landscape sustainability is defined as the capacity of a landscape to consistently provide long-term, landscape-specific ecosystem services essential for maintaining and improving human well-being. Fundamentally, well-being is a journey, not a destination. Landscape sustainability science is a place-based, use-inspired science of understanding and improving the dynamic relationship between ecosystem services and human well-being in changing landscapes under uncertainties arising from internal feedbacks and external disturbances. While landscape sustainability science emphasizes place-based research on landscape and regional scales, significant between landscape interactions and hierarchical linkages to both finer and broader scales (or externalities) must not be ignored. To advance landscape sustainability science, spatially explicit methods are essential, especially experimental approaches that take advantage of designed landscapes and multi-scaled simulation models that couple the dynamics of landscape services (ecosystem services provided by multiple landscape elements in combination as emergent properties) and human well-being.

Evaluating Evidence

Hill, A. B. (1965). The Environment and Disease: Association or Causation?. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine. 58 (5): 295–300.

Key Points:

  • The article establishes the “Bradford Hill Criteria” for determining causal association. The criteria act as useful guidelines for providing evidence of a causal relationship.
  • The article specifies 9 criteria that can be considered when building an argument for causation. The criteria include: Strength, Consistency, Specificity, Temporality, Biological gradient, Plausibility, Coherence, Experiment, and Analogy. 


“Our observations reveal an association between two variables, perfectly clear-cut and beyond what we would care to attribute to the play of chance. What aspects of that association should we especially consider before deciding that the most likely interpretation of it is causation?”

“All scientific work is incomplete – whether it be observational or experimental. All scientific work is liable to be upset or modified by advancing knowledge. That does not confer upon us a freedom to ignore the knowledge we already have, or to postpone the action that it appears to demand at a given time.”

Decision Making

Snowden, D. J., & Boone, M. E. (2007). A leader’s framework for decision making. Harvard Business Review, 85(11), 68–76.

Key Points:

  • All too often, managers rely on common leadership approaches that work well in one set of circumstances but fall short in others.
  • Good leadership is not a one-size fits all proposition. It requires openness to change on an individual level.
  • Adept leaders will know not only how to identify the context they’re working in at any given time but also how to change their behavior and their decisions to match that context.
  • Cynefin framework - diagram depicting the four contexts of management decisions: Simple, Complicated, Complex, and Chaotic.The Cynefin framework (see figure) allows managers to see things from new viewpoints, assimilate complex concepts, and address real-world problems and opportunities. (Cynefin, pronounced ku-nev-in, is a Welsh word that signifies the multiple factors in our environment and our experience that influence us in ways we can never understand.)
  • Using this approach, leaders learn to define the framework with examples from their own organization’s history and scenarios of its possible future. This enhances communication and helps managers rapidly understand the context in which they are operating.
  • A deep understanding of context, the ability to embrace complexity and paradox, and a willingness to flexibly change leadership style will be required for leaders who want to make things happen in a time of increasing uncertainty.


"Effective leaders learn to shift their decision-making styles to match changing business environments. Simple, complicated, complex, and chaotic contexts each call for different managerial responses. By correctly identifying the governing context, staying aware of danger signals, and avoiding inappropriate reactions, managers can lead effectively in a variety of situations."

"Each domain requires different actions. Simple and complicated contexts assume an ordered universe, where cause-and-effect relationships are perceptible, and right answers can be determined based on the facts. Complex and chaotic contexts are unordered--there is no immediately apparent relationship between cause and effect, and the way forward is determined based on emerging patterns."