Development of Risk Propagation Model for Estimating Ecological Responses of Streams to Anthropogenic Watershed Stresses and Stream Modifications

EPA Grant Number: R830885
Title: Development of Risk Propagation Model for Estimating Ecological Responses of Streams to Anthropogenic Watershed Stresses and Stream Modifications
Investigators: Novotny, Vladimir , Ehlinger, Timothy , Langseth, David , Manolakos, Elias , O'Reilly, Neal
Current Investigators: Novotny, Vladimir , Bartosova, Alena , Ehlinger, Timothy , Manolakos, Elias
Institution: Northeastern University , University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
Current Institution: Northeastern University , Illinois State Water Survey , University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Project Period: June 1, 2003 through May 31, 2006 (Extended to May 31, 2007)
Project Amount: $747,760
RFA: Developing Regional-Scale Stressor-Response Models for Use in Environmental Decision-making (2002) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecosystems , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


The goal of the research is developing a regionalized watershed scale model to determine aquatic ecosystem vulnerability to anthropogenic watershed changes, pollutant loads and stream modifications (such as impoundments and riverine navigation) that will assist watershed managers in their decision on methods to mitigate stream degradation and biological impairment, assess potential watershed impacts, and identify watershed restoration opportunities. The layered hierarchical model system, developed by Artificial Neural Net modeling and analysis, will be based on probabilistic risk propagation and linking the stresses with ecologic endpoints from physical attributes of the watershed and water body and pollutant loadings at the lowest level to measures of biotic integrity, such as the Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI), at the highest level.


The project focuses on medium to large tributaries of the Mississippi River in the Upper Midwest. The selected streams for the model development are the St. Croix, Wisconsin, and Chippewa Rivers in Wisconsin, Rock River (Wisconsin and Illinois), the Fox River (Illinois and Wisconsin), and the Illinois River System. These water bodies have a large data base that enables us to develop and verify the model. The suite of rivers represent a wide range of anthropogenic impacts, including excellent reference sections and highly stressed sections. The model will be a posteriori developed using the wealth of data collected in the Midwest US in the last twenty years. Once the model is developed it will be tested on two rivers in the Northeast, the Charles River in the Boston Metropolitan area and the Connecticut River. In the Northeast, acid deposition will be considered as one of the major stressors that is absent in the Midwest.

Expected Results:

The main objectives and outcomes of the research are: (1) a model that will include pollutant inputs and watershed and waterbody modification (pollution but not a pollutant) such as land use changes and land use, channelization and impoundments for navigation or flood control, and riparian corridor modification as the key root stressors; (2) development of quantitative and layered risk progression from the basic root stressors to the biotic endpoints (fish and macroinvertebrate IBIs); and (3) using the model we will study the possibility of mitigating the stressors in a way that would have the most beneficial impact on the biotic endpoints. We will develop a manual for watershed managers, TMDL planners, consultants and other users and conduct a workshop at the conclusion of the project on the use of the model and the relationships between the stressors (pollution), water quality, sediment and habitat risks, and the biotic endpoints.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 18 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 2 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

watershed management, habitat integrity, biotic indices, stressor, ecological risks, water quality risk, legacy pollution, acid rainfall, morphological attributes, stream modification, impoundments, navigation, watershed vulnerability, loading capacity, ecoregions, Upper Midwest, Northeast, Mississippi River, Artificial Neural Net models, stream corridors, restoration, nonpoint pollution, land use, Total Maximum Daily Load., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Water, ECOSYSTEMS, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Water & Watershed, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, Monitoring/Modeling, Aquatic Ecosystem, Regional/Scaling, Terrestrial Ecosystems, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Ecology and Ecosystems, Watersheds, neural net modeling, risk assessment, ecosystem modeling, anthropogenic stress, ecology, ecosystem assessment, watershed, ecosystem monitoring, decision making, ecological variation, risk propagation model, regional scale impacts, water quality, aquatic ecosystems, environmental stress, ecological indicators, ecology assessment models, ecosystem stress, watershed assessment, ecological models, water monitoring, adaptive implementation modeling, stress response

Progress and Final Reports:

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