top of page
Home: Events
Screen Shot 2020-01-12 at 8.00.20 PM.png
Screen Shot 2020-01-12 at 8.05.42 PM.png
Screen Shot 2020-01-12 at 8.12.56 PM.png


University of Birmingham

Home: Skills


Research interests

I study intensive agrarian systems and their sustainability through time. I focus on investigating their capacity to cope with socio-environmental shocks and manage uncertainty. My approach is holistic and merges anthropological and historical frameworks with methods from the environmental sciences, ecology, modeling and statistics, especially uncertainty and sensitivity analysis.

I have been the PI of the EU-funded project SIZE, which aimed at assessing the risks and benefits of promoting "large" and "small" irrigation systems through anthropological / historical perspectives, dynamic models and uncertainty/sensitivity analysis. This project was coordinated by the University of Bergen and had Princeton University as a partner institution. SIZE received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 792178.

I am used to work on water-related topics with a wide range of scientists from different fields, including historians, engineers, hydrologists, archaeologists, mathematicians, ecologists and computer and environmental scientists. So if you are interested in collaborating, please drop a line!


My full CV can be downloaded here.

Home: About Me


Present and previous posts

September 2022 - to date


School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Birmingham, United Kingdom.

September 2019 - August 2022


Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department (Levin Lab), Princeton University, USA.

Center for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities, University of Bergen, Norway.

PI of the project The Role of Size in the Sustainability of Irrigation Systems (SIZE), funded by the European Commission H2020 framework.

January 2018 - August 2019


Centre de Recherches en Archéologie et Patrimoine, Université Libre de Bruxelles, Belgium.

September 2015 - August 2017


Department of Maritime Civilizations (Sedimentary Archaeology Lab), University of Haifa, Israel.

PI of the project Bloom the Dry: The Creation of Traditional Mediterranean Irrigated Fields (DryIR), funded by the European Commission FP7 framework.

May 2014 - August 2015


Department of Geography, University of Cologne, Germany.

PI of the project Bloom the Dry: The Creation of Traditional Mediterranean Irrigated Fields, funded by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation.

PI of the project Building Up Intensive Labour Areas: Terraces, Irrigation and Agrarian Change in the Ricote Valley (Murcia, Spain) After 711 AD, funded by The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

September 2012 - May 2014

Complexity and Socio-Ecological Dynamics (CaSEs), Institut Milà i Fontanals, CSIC Barcelona, Spain


Home: Experience


September 2008 - August 2012


Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Spain

Dissertation title: Construction Criteria of Andalusi Irrigated Fields. The Case of Ricote (Murcia, Spain)

Grade: Summa cum laude

UAB Outstanding PhD Award

September 2001 - August 2006

Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB), Spain


Home: Education
Home: List


Samuele Lo Piano, Razi Sheikholeslami, Arnald Puy, Andrea Saltelli. 2022. Unpacking the modelling process via sensitivity auditing. Futures 144, 103041.
doi: 10.1016/j.futures.2022.103041.

Arnald Puy, Pierfrancesco Beneventano, Simon A. Levin, Samuele Lo Piano, Tommaso Portaluri, Andrea Saltelli. 2022. Models with higher effective dimensions tend to produce more uncertain estimates. Science Advances 8(42), eabn9450.
doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abn9450

Arnald Puy, Andrea Saltelli. 2022. Discrepancy measures for sensitivity analysis in mathematical modeling.
arXiv: 2206.13470.

Arnald Puy, Andrea Saltelli. 2022. Mind the Hubris: Complexity can Misfire. In A. Saltelli, M. Di Fiore (Eds.). Views on Mathematical  Modelling. Oxford University Press, Oxford (Forthcoming).
arXiv: 2207.12230.

Arnald Puy, Razi Sheikholeslami, Hoshin V. Gupta, Jim W. Hall, Bruce Lankford, Samuele Lo Piano, Jonas Meier, Florian Pappenberger, Amilcare Porporato, Giulia Vico, Andrea Saltelli. 2022. The delusive accuracy of global irrigation water withdrawal estimates. Nature Communications 13, 3183.
doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-30731-8

Samuele Lo Piano, Emanuele Borgonovo, Arnald Puy, Andrea Saltelli, John Walsh, Daniele Bidoni. 2022. Improving the reliability of cohesion policy databases. PLOS ONE 17(4), e0266823.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0266823.

Arnald Puy, Bruce Lankford, Jonas Meier, Saskia van der Kooij, Andrea Saltelli. 2022. Large variations in global irrigation withdrawals caused by uncertain irrigation efficiencies. Environmental Research Letters 17(4), 044014.
doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/ac5768.

Arnald Puy, Samuele Lo Piano, Andrea Saltelli, Simon A. Levin. 2022. sensobol: an R package to compute variance-based sensitivity indices. Journal of Statistical Software 102(5), 1-37.

Arnald Puy, William Becker, Samuele Lo Piano, Andrea Saltelli. 2022. A comprehensive comparison of total-order estimators for global sensitivity analysis. International Journal for Uncertainty Quantification 12(2), 1-18

Arnald Puy, Emanuele Borgonovo, Samuele Lo Piano, Simon A. Levin, Andrea Saltelli. 2021. Irrigated areas drive irrigation water withdrawals. Nature Communications 12, 4525.

Saman Razavi, Anthony Jakeman, Andrea Saltelli, Clémentine Prieur, Bertrand Iooss, Emanuele Borgonovo, Elmar Plischke, Samuele Lo Piano, Takuya Iwanaga, William Becker, Stefano Tarantola, Joseph H.A. Guillaume, John Jakeman, Hoshin Gupta, Nicola Melillo, Giovanni Rabitti, Vincent Chabridon, Quingyun Duan, Xifu Sun, Stefán Smith, Razi Sheikholeslami, Nassim Hosseini, Masoud Asadzadeh, Arnald Puy, Sergei Kucherenko, Holger R. Maier. 2021. The future of sensitivity analysis: an essential discipline for systems modeling and policy support. Environmental Modelling & Software 137, 104954.
doi: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2020.104954

Arnald Puy, Samuele Lo Piano, and Andrea Saltelli. 2021. Is VARS more intuitive and efficient than Sobol' indices?. Environmental Modelling & Software 137, 104960.
doi: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2021.104960 

Samuele Lo Piano, Federico Ferretti, Arnald Puy, Daniel Albrecht, and Andrea Saltelli. 2020. Variance-based sensitivity analysis: The quest for better estimators between explorativity and efficiency. Reliability Engineering & System Safety 206, 107300.
doi: 10.1016/j.ress.2020.107300

Arnald Puy, William Becker, Samuele Lo Piano, and Andrea Saltelli. 2020. The battle of total-order sensitivity estimators. arXiv: 2009.01147 

Andrea Saltelli, Gabriele Bammer, Isabelle Bruno, Erica Charters, Monica Di Fiore, Emmanuel Didier, Wendy Nelson Espeland, John Kay, Samuele Lo Piano, Deborah Mayo, Roger Pielke Jr, Tommaso Portaluri, Theodore M. Porter, Arnald Puy, Ismael Rafols, Jerome R. Ravetz, Erik Reinert, Daniel Sarewitz, Philip B. Stark, Andrew Stirling, Jeroen van der Sluijs, Paolo Vineis. 2020. Five ways to ensure that models serve society: a manifesto. Nature 582.7813, 482–484.
doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-01812-9

Arnald Puy, Samuele Lo Piano, and Andrea Saltelli. 2020. Current models underestimate future irrigated areas. Geophysical Research Letters 47.8.
doi: 10.1029/2020GL087360

Arnald Puy, Samuele Lo Piano, and Andrea Saltelli. 2020. A sensitivity analysis of the PAWN sensitivity index. Environmental Modelling & Software 127, 104679.
doi: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2020.104679.

Arnald Puy, Emanuele. Borgonovo, Samuele Lo Piano, and Andrea Saltelli. 2019. Are the results of the groundwater model robust?. 
arXiv: 1912.10814

Arnald Puy, Manuel Herzog, Pedro Escriche, Amou Marouche, Yousef Oubana, and Olaf Bubenzer. 2018. Detection of sand encroachment patterns in desert oases. The case of Erg Chebbi (Morocco). Science of The Total Environment 642, pp. 241- 249. 
doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.05.343.

Arnald Puy. 2018. Irrigated areas grow faster than the population. Ecological Applications 28.6, 1413-1419.
doi: 10.1002/eap.1743.

Andrea L. Balbo, Arnald Puy, Jaume Frigola, Fèlix Retamero, Isabel Cacho, and Helena Kirchner. 2018. Amplified environmental change: Evidence from land-use and climate change in medieval Minorca. Land Degradation & Development 29.4, 1262-1269.

Arnald Puy, Racahata Muneepeerakul, and Andrea L. Balbo. 2017. Size and stochasticity in irrigated social-ecological systems. Scientific Reports 7, 43943.
doi: 10.1038/srep43943.

Arnald Puy, José M. Garcia Avilés, Andrea L. Balbo, Michelle Keller, Svenja Riedesel, Daniel Blum, and Olaf Bubenzer. 2017. Drip irrigation uptake in traditional irrigated fields: The edaphological impact. Journal of Environmental Management 202, 550-561. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2016.07.017

Andrea L. Balbo and Arnald Puy. 2017. Terrace landscapes. Editorial to the special issue. Journal of Environmental Management 202.3, 495-499.
doi: 10. 1016/j .jenvman.2017.02.001

Andrea L. Balbo, Erik Gomez-Baggethun, Matthieu Salpeteur, Arnald Puy, Steffano Biagetti, and Jurgen Scheffran. 2016. Resilience of small-scale societies: a view from drylands. Ecology and Society 21.2, 53.
doi: 10.5751/ES-08327-210253

Arnald Puy, Andrea. L. Balbo, and Olaf Bubenzer. 2016. Radiocarbon dating of agrarian terraces by means of buried soils. Radiocarbon 58.2, 345-363.
doi: 10.1017/RDC.2015.21.

Arnald Puy, Andrea. L. Balbo, Camilla Zinsli, and Morten Ramstad. 2016. High-resolution stratigraphy of Scandinavian coastal archaeological settlements: the case of Hakonshella, W Norway". Boreas 45.3, 508-520.
doi: 10.1111/bor.12166

Arnald Puy. 2014. Land selection for irrigation in al-Andalus (Spain, 8th century AD). Journal of Field Archaeology 39.1, 84-100.
doi: 10.1179 / 0093469013Z.00000000072

Arnald Puy, Andrea L. Balbo, Antoni Virgili, and Helena Kirchner. 2014. The evolution of Mediterranean wetlands in the first millennium AD: The case of Les Arenes floodplain (Tortosa, NE Spain). Geoderma 232-234, 219-235.
doi: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2014.05.001

Arnald Puy and Andrea L. Balbo. 2013. The genesis of irrigated terraces in al-Andalus. A geoarchaeological perspective on intensive agriculture in semi-arid environments (Ricote, Murcia, Spain). Journal of Arid Environments 89, 45-56.
doi: 10 .1016 / j.jaridenv.2012.10.008

Arnald Puy. 2013. Tracking down the glitter of gold in the Diplomatari de Santes Creus. Imago Temporis - Medium Aevum 7, 175-224.

doi: 10.17605/OSF.IO/P6KMG.

Arnald Puy. 2013. The construction of fertility in al-Andalus. Geoarchaeology in Ricote (Murcia, Spain, 8th century AD). Geophysical Research Abstracts 15, 2335.

Arnald Puy. 2012. La huerta de Ricote (Murcia, España) entre los siglos XV y XVIII. Estudiar el pasado: aspectos metodologicos de la investigacion en Ciencias de la Antiguedad y de la Edad Media. Proceedings of the First Postgraduate Conference on Studies of Antiquity and Middle Ages Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona 26-28th October 2010. Ed. by A. Castro Correa, D. Gomez Castro, G. Gonzalez Germain, J. Oller Guzman, A. Puy, R. Riera Vargas, K. Krystyna Starczewska, and N. Villagra Hidalgo. Oxford: BAR International Series 2412, 199-209.

doi: 10.13140/2.1.1883.4887

Ainoa Castro Correa, Daniel Gomez Castro, Gerard Gonzalez Germain, Jordi Oller Guzman, Arnald Puy, Roger Riera Vargas, Katarzyna Krystyna Starczewska, and Nereida Villagra Hidalgo, eds. Estudiar el pasado: aspectos metodologicos de la investigacion en Ciencias de la Antiguedad y de la Edad Media. Proceedings of the First Postgraduate Conference on Studies of Antiquity and Middle Ages Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona 26-28th October 2010. BAR

 nternational Series 2412. Oxford.

Arnald Puy. 2010. Moneda, peces de moneda d'or i magnats a Santes Creus. Revista de l'Arxiu Bibliografic de Santes Creus 23, 39-49.

Arnald Puy. 2008. La moneda d'or al diplomatari de Santa Maria de Santes Creus (975-1225). Gaceta Numismatica 169, 39-60.



Here you will find the latest outputs of the project "The Role of Size in the Sustainability of Irrigation Systems", as well as presentation slides.


Any code supporting the conclusions of a paper can be retrieved from Arnald Puy's GitHub profile.

In this collaborative effort we argue that the estimates of irrigation water needs yielded by global models are unreliable. This is because they neglect important uncertainties in several key parameters used in the calculation of water withdrawals, such as in the extension of irrigated areas, crop evapotranspiration, precipitation and irrigation efficiencies. We also show that these models are biased for they exclude legitimate conceptions of irrigation that do not align with the engineering vision of irrigation, such as those of traditional irrigators. We propose three corrective measures to prevent these models from conveying an illusion of accuracy: 1) assume that uncertainties will not dissappear, 2) invest computational power in exploring quantitative uncertainties, and 3) expose underlying assumptions and value-ladennesses.


Press release by University of Bergen

Press release by University of Oxford

Press release by University of Reading

A key parameter in the calculation of irrigation water withdrawals is the irrigation efficiency, which corrects for the fraction of water lost between irrigation withdrawals and the crop due to management, distribution or conveyance losses. Here we show that the irrigation efficiency used in global irrigation models is flawed for it overlooks key ambiguities in partial efficiencies, irrigation technologies, the definition of 'large-scale' irrigated areas or managerial factors. Once accounted for, these uncertainties can make irrigation withdrawal estimates fluctuate by more than one order of magnitude at the country level. Such variability is larger and leads to more extreme values than that caused by the uncertainties related with climate change. 


School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences
University of Birmingham
Birmingham B15 2TT
United Kingdom

  • twitter

Thanks for submitting!

Home: Contact
bottom of page