EPA Science Inventory

A synoptic survey of ecosystem services from headwater catchments in the United States

Citation:

Hill, B., R. Kolka, F. McCormick, AND M. Starry. A synoptic survey of ecosystem services from headwater catchments in the United States. Ecosystem Services. Elsevier Online, New York, NY, 7:106-115, (2014).

Description:

We combined data collected from 568 headwater streams as a part of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s National Rivers and Streams Assessment (NRSA) with catchment attributes related to the production of the ecosystem services of water supply, carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus sequestration, and nitrogen removal via denitrification. We report results for nine ecoregions: Northern Appalachian Mountains (NAP), Southern Appalachian Mountains (SAP), Coastal Plains (CPL), Northern Plains (NPL), Southern Plains (SPL), Temperate Plains (TPL), Upper Midwest (UMW), Western Mountains (WMT), and Xeric West (XER). Headwater streams represented 74-80% of total catchment perennial stream length in these ecoregions. Annual runoff (RO) was 3-5 times higher in the WMT than in the other ecoregions. Carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) sequestration in trees or removed as timber harvests were highest in the mountains (NAP, SAP, WMT) and lowest in the central plains (NPL, SPL, TPL). C, N, and P sequestration in catchment soils was highest in the UMW. Catchment denitrification (DN) was highest in the larger Plains catchments; in-stream DN, when extrapolated to cumulative catchment stream length, was highest in the SAP and WMT. Annual combined Catch DN and Stream DN was higher in the Central Plains (NPL, SPL, TPL) and lower in the XER. We used published economic value estimates for 1) water supply, 2) C, N, and P sequestration in biomass, harvested timber, and agricultural crops, and 3) N removal via denitrification. These analyses reveal the economic importance of the mountain catchments for water supply value (WMT), C and N sequestration (SAP) and C harvest (WMT). P sequestration, N and P harvest, and DN values were highest in the TPL. The economic value of these bundled ecosystem services for our 568 headwater catchments is USD 200 billion y-1, or an average of USD 352000 y-1 per catchment. The national importance of headwater catchments, in terms of ecosystem services and their potential economic value, is even greater when you consider that our study catchments are a statistical representation of more than 2 million headwater catchments in the continental United States.

Purpose/Objective:

We combined data collected from 568 headwater streams as a part of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s National Rivers and Streams Assessment (NRSA) with catchment attributes related to the production of the ecosystem services of water supply, carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus sequestration, and nitrogen removal via denitrification. We report results for nine ecoregions: Northern Appalachian Mountains (NAP), Southern Appalachian Mountains (SAP), Coastal Plains (CPL), Northern Plains (NPL), Southern Plains (SPL), Temperate Plains (TPL), Upper Midwest (UMW), Western Mountains (WMT), and Xeric West (XER). Headwater streams represented 74-80% of total catchment perennial stream length in these ecoregions. Annual runoff (RO) was 3-5 times higher in the WMT than in the other ecoregions. Carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) sequestration in trees or removed as timber harvests were highest in the mountains (NAP, SAP, WMT) and lowest in the central plains (NPL, SPL, TPL). C, N, and P sequestration in catchment soils was highest in the UMW. Catchment denitrification (DN) was highest in the larger Plains catchments; in-stream DN, when extrapolated to cumulative catchment stream length, was highest in the SAP and WMT. Annual combined Catch DN and Stream DN was higher in the Central Plains (NPL, SPL, TPL) and lower in the XER. We used published economic value estimates for 1) water supply, 2) C, N, and P sequestration in biomass, harvested timber, and agricultural crops, and 3) N removal via denitrification. These analyses reveal the economic importance of the mountain catchments for water supply value (WMT), C and N sequestration (SAP) and C harvest (WMT). P sequestration, N and P harvest, and DN values were highest in the TPL. The economic value of these bundled ecosystem services for our 568 headwater catchments is USD 200 billion y-1, or an average of USD 352000 y-1 per catchment. The national importance of headwater catchments, in terms of ecosystem services and their potential economic value, is even greater when you consider that our study catchments are a statistical representation of more than 2 million headwater catchments in the continental United States.

URLs/Downloads:

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2212041613001010   Exit

Record Details:

Record Type: DOCUMENT (JOURNAL/PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL)
Start Date: 04/11/2014
Completion Date: 04/11/2014
Record Last Revised: 04/06/2015
Record Created: 04/11/2014
Record Released: 04/11/2014
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 273138

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LAB

MID-CONTINENT ECOLOGY DIVISION