An Integrated Watershed Approach to Evaluate and Model Ecosystem Effects of Erosion and Pollutant Transport in Urbanized Subalpine Landscapes

EPA Grant Number: R826282
Title: An Integrated Watershed Approach to Evaluate and Model Ecosystem Effects of Erosion and Pollutant Transport in Urbanized Subalpine Landscapes
Investigators: Goldman, Charles R. , Jassby, Alan D. , Kavvas, M. Levant , Reuter, John E. , Schladow, S. G.
Current Investigators: Goldman, Charles R. , Heyvaert , Alan C. , Jassby, Alan D. , Kavvas, M. Levant , Reuter, John E. , Schladow, S. G.
Institution: University of California - Davis
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: June 1, 1998 through May 31, 2001 (Extended to January 31, 2002)
Project Amount: $879,376
RFA: Water and Watersheds Research (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water , Water and Watersheds


This proposal integrates the fields of biological and ecological research, hydrologic, geochemical and engineering, social science research, and environmental modeling in a multi-disciplinary program designed to provide watershed managers and decision makers with a science-based understanding, and innovative tools for, the development of environmental policy.

The specific objectives of this research to be conducted in the Sierra Nevada at Lake Tahoe include: 1) Apply new hydrologic model developed by Kavvas (project co-PI) to describe dynamics of non-point source pollutants over complex landscapes. This is the first time this published model will be applied at the watershed scale; 2) Use the DYRESM-WQ model to study the interactions between inorganic suspended particulate matter (SPM), chlorophyll, light attenuation and the physical mixing environment of lakes; 3) Integrate watershed processes related to erosion and pollutant transport with lake and stream response, using state-of-the-art optical measurements, characterization of SPM, statistical analyses of lake time series data, and analyses of long-term stream loading data; 4) Employ paleolimnological techniques to reconstruct lake and watershed response to historical disturbance; and 5) Work within the context of existing agency and non-profit conservation groups to develop a watershed-scale erosion control management plan.


The strength of this project lies in its interdisciplinary and multi-level approach for understanding watershed hydrology/water quality, and developing new techniques for the management of these landscapes. Within this research we combine hydrologic, sediment transport and water quality modeling, evaluation of long-term data sets, environmental chemistry, paleoecology, monitoring, field limnology, economic analysis, development of environmental management plans, and continue our close working relationship with agencies and community groups to better face the challenges and solutions associated with effective watershed management.

We incorporate many state-of-the-art research projects which would stand alone in their respective disciplines, e.g. development of new sediment and nutrient transport model(s), empirical and mechanistic modeling to predict impact of erosion, sediment transport, and nutrient loading on plankton ecology and lake water quality, use of inherent optical properties in water to deconvolve contribution by organic and inorganic components, application of powerful and advanced statistical methods for analysis of long-term data sets, development of techniques to use lake sediment biogeochemical markers for identification of historic lake and watershed disturbance, and development of quantitative erosion control management models.

Expected Results:

The results of our research and modeling at Lake Tahoe have direct transferability to other regions in the mountainous U.S. where agencies and communities are striving to incorporate a sound science-based foundation into their efforts to protect watersheds. In the rapidly growing western U.S., an understanding of ecological processes at the boundary between urbanized and pristine landscapes needs to be addressed. Given the wealth of focused research and monitoring data available for the system, a comprehensive watershed study in this system provides us with an ideal opportunity to understand how stress from urbanization affects physical, biological and socio-economic processes.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 57 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 15 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

watershed, Lake Tahoe, nutrient, sediment, erosion., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Hydrology, Nutrients, Water & Watershed, Environmental Chemistry, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, State, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecology and Ecosystems, Watersheds, limnology, environmental monitoring, fate and transport, hydrological stability, nutrient supply, nutrient transport, ecological effects, ecological exposure, erosion, watershed management, urban landscapes, pollutant transport, ecosystem effects, subalpine landscapes, biological integrity, phytoplankton dynamics, Nevada (NV), ecosystem indicators, sediment runoff, aquatic ecosystems, ecosystem, water quality, biogeochemistry, ecological models, land use, lake ecosystems, suspended particulate matter

Relevant Websites: Exit Exit Exit

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1998 Progress Report
  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • Final Report