Lancet Planet Health
Centre for Ecosystem Management
Watersheds (also known as water catchments and river basins) are recognised in contemporary science as important natural systems in which to investigate the complex socioecological foundations of health. A watershed is the spatially bound geophysical unit within which surface and shallow groundwater drain to a single collecting stream or river (see appendix). Watersheds are physical and abstract systems: they are open and hydrologically permeable, yet can be represented as functionally distinct. Collectively, watersheds comprise a complex hierarchical network, and thus exemplify the upstream and downstream nature of ecosystems. Watersheds include the social actors, relationships, and institutions located within their boundaries. This means that distant individuals residing within the same watershed might share a more common history of social and environmental exposure than nearer individuals located closer to each other, but in separate watersheds.
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