Vulnerability assessment for reducing risk of environmental hazards based on ecosystem services: Case of Alborz Province

Document Type : Original Article


1 Department of Natural Resources Engineering, Aras International Campous, Tehran University, Tabriz, Iran

2 Department of Environmental Sciences, Faculy of Natural Resources, University of Tethran, Tehran, Iran

3 Department of Reclamation of Arid and Mountainous Regions, Faculy of Natural Resources, University of Tehran,Tehran, Iran


The comprehensive identification of hazard risks in order to protect against them is one of the main steps in environmental management. Given the importance of environmental impact assessment in sustainable development, the development of a comprehensive system consisting of effective indicators is vital for the creation or exacerbation of environmental risks, on the one hand, and their monitoring, on the other. This comprehensive system can provide categorized information for different levels of decision-making and management. This study aims to assess the vulnerability to zoning of environmental risks by applying an ecosystem services approach. It also aims to integrate the ecosystem services concept into environmental risk assessment. 
Materials and methods:
Initially, a complete list of environmental risks was prepared by desk study, using provincial and national documents and field studies, along with meetings with different institutions. This list consists of all potential or active factors that can lead to risks. The prepared list of risks was reviewed by experts in order to have their feedbacks and to finalize it. In this study, different risks, including an imbalance in provincial development, the likelihood of water erosion and fire, land use change, and incomplete protection of biodiversity were analyzed.  AHP multi criteria decision making was applied for zoning the imbalance of industry with ecological suitability. RUSLE was applied for soil erosion and MAXENT for fire and incomplete protection of wildlife. To study land use/cover changes, cellular automata and the genetic algorithm were integrated.
 Results and discussion:
The results of setting priorities using the multi criteria decision making technique revealed that some risks, including imbalance of industry on land, erosion, vegetation and land use changes, fire and incomplete protection of wildlife are the major risks to be considered. Results show that quality of the ecological area of Alborz Province has significantly reduced in recent years due to human factors such as the establishment of factories, creation of various industrial zones, soil erosion and degradation, drought, depletion of water tables, loss of accessible water resources, improper cropping patterns, population growth due to immigration from other provinces and climate change. The results of vulnerability assessment show that a massive pressure was exerted on sustainable use of the environment of Alborz Province by human impacts. Alborz Province suffers from various risks for which applying environmental services, such as conservation of soil nutrients, biodiversity and diverse vegetation of land, can be effective in their reduction.
Environmental risks are major threats to the degradation of resources and environmental services in Alborz Province which should be controlled and prevented. Complete identification of pre-existing risks and their spatial analysis can help in the development of conservation strategies for vulnerable areas.


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