Testing Watershed Classifications Relevant to Bioassessment, Conservation Planning, and Watershed Restoration

EPA Grant Number: R830594
Title: Testing Watershed Classifications Relevant to Bioassessment, Conservation Planning, and Watershed Restoration
Investigators: Hawkins, Charles P. , Schmidt, John C. , Tarboton, David G. , Stevenson, R. Jan , Higgins, Jonathan , Lammert Khoury, Mary , Baker, Michelle , Cao, Yong
Current Investigators: Hawkins, Charles P. , Tarboton, David G. , Stevenson, R. Jan , Higgins, Jonathan , Lammert Khoury, Mary , Baker, Michelle , Cao, Yong
Institution: Utah State University , Michigan State University , Nature Conservancy, The
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: January 1, 2003 through December 31, 2005 (Extended to November 30, 2006)
Project Amount: $853,515
RFA: Development of Watershed Classification Systems for Diagnosis of Biological Impairment in Watersheds (2002) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water and Watersheds , Water



Our research is designed to test the effectiveness of a systematic approach for developing watershed classification schemes useful for environmental assessment and monitoring of aquatic ecosystems. In doing so, we will identify the specific watershed classification schemes of greatest utility for biological assessment, conservation planning, and the diagnosis of anthropogenic stressors for stream ecosystems in the western United States. To address these goals, we will answer four questions:

1. How effectively do classifications derived from single types of watershed and reach attributes perform in partitioning naturally occurring biotic variation?

2. Can sequential application of classifications based on different types of watershed attributes provide insight regarding the stressors affecting aquatic ecosystems?

3. Can a watershed classification derived from a multivariate analysis of the joint variation in different types of watershed attributes achieve greater effectiveness in partitioning biotic variation among watersheds than classifications based on single factors?

4. To what degree can we infer aspects of ecosystem function from watershed classifications that predict biotic structure (i.e., composition)?


We will base part of our analyses on ~ 400 least-impaired, reference watersheds in the western U.S. for which we have data on basic channel attributes, water chemistry, periphyton, and macroinvertebrates. These watersheds differ considerably in regional climate, geology, and topography as well as dominant land uses. We will augment the reference site data with new data collected from ~ 90 disturbed, non-reference streams that vary in both the type (urbanization, agriculture, and forestry) and amount of watershed alteration.

Expected Results:

Our research will address several critical knowledge gaps regarding the linkages between watershed attributes and stream ecosystem structure and function that currently limit the effectiveness of watershed and reach classifications in bioassessments, conservation planning, and restoration. In addition, the project will provide training for three graduate students and a post-doctoral associate and thus serve as a means to both develop expertise in subjects relevant to EPA's mission and also stimulate interest in seeking careers within EPA.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 39 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 13 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

EPA Regions 6, 8, 9, 10, CA, OR, WA, ID, NV, AZ, NM, CO, WY, MT, UT, watershed classification, indicators, bioassessment, restoration, conservation, diagnostics, modeling., RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, Water, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, Water & Watershed, Aquatic Ecosystem, Monitoring/Modeling, Water Quality Monitoring, Environmental Monitoring, Terrestrial Ecosystems, Ecological Risk Assessment, Biology, Watersheds, anthropogenic processes, anthropogenic stress, bioassessment, biodiversity, watershed management, ecosystem monitoring, conservation, biota diversity, diagnostic indicators, ecosystem indicators, aquatic ecosystems, water quality, bioindicators, watershed sustainablility, biological indicators, ecosystem stress, watershed assessment, conservation planning, aquatic biota, restoration planning, watershed restoration, ecosystem response

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2003 Progress Report
  • 2004 Progress Report
  • 2005 Progress Report
  • Final Report