An Integrated Ecological and Socio-Economic Approach to Evaluating and Reducing Agricultural Impacts on Upper Mississippi River Watersheds

EPA Grant Number: R825761
Title: An Integrated Ecological and Socio-Economic Approach to Evaluating and Reducing Agricultural Impacts on Upper Mississippi River Watersheds
Investigators: Gowda, Prasanna H. , Haro, Roger J. , Napier, Ted L. , Ward, Andy
Current Investigators: Gowda, Prasanna H. , Burgess, Andrew F. , Dalzell, Brent , Haro, Roger J. , Kollman, Fred , Mendez, Aida , Mulla, David , Napier, Ted L. , Stombaugh, Susie , Tucker, Mark , Ward, Andy
Institution: University of Wisconsin - La Crosse , The Ohio State University
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: September 1, 1997 through August 30, 2000 (Extended to March 31, 2003)
Project Amount: $650,921
RFA: Water and Watersheds Research (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water and Watersheds , Water


Nutrient enriched waters from Mississippi River are one of the main causes of hypoxic zones in the Gulf of Mexico and adversely impact on aquatic ecosystems within the basin. Farming in the basin produces most of the nation's corn soybean, and wheat and is the primary source of sediment and nutrient loadings to the river.


This research will: (1) use a spatial-process model to predict agricultural discharges from two watersheds in the Upper Mississippi River basin; (2) use observed and predicted runoff, sediment, and nutrient loadings to estimate the contribution of urban areas, waste water treatment plants and point sources to the total loading; (3) use the model to evaluate potential water quality benefits associated with the adoption of alternative management strategies on these watersheds; (4) develop regional-scale predictive models of ecosystem health', biodiversity, and sustainability by relating information on biota and ecosystem functional processes to current and potential landscape composition and structure; and (5) identify factors that affect adoption of conservation production systems among land owner-operators in the two watersheds: the Lower Minnesota River watershed in eastern Minnesota and the Maquoketa River watershed in northeastern Iowa.


A new watershed modeling approach which incorporates the ADAPT model will be used to predict daily hydrologic and water quality responses. Landsat TM data, NRCS soils data bases, published farming system information, topographic and historic climatic data will be used to derive hydrologic response unit features which are inputs to the model. Potential alternative farming systems will be developed based on interactions with stakeholders in each watershed. Process model estimates will be made of potential reductions in environmental impacts associated with adoption of combinations of these alternative farming systems. Data on macroinvertebrate communities in the study watersheds will be collected and analyzed. Statistical relationships between the habitat, biotic community structure and land use activities will be developed and used for predicting their expected regional attainment for alternative management practices. Socioeconomic characteristics of the farm operator and the farm enterprise will be used to develop statistical models to predict: (a) adoption of specific soil and water conservation production systems; (b) agricultural productivity; and (c) propensities to adopt innovative conservation farming systems. A survey will be conducted by interviewing 750 land owner-operators in each watershed.

Expected Results:

This research project is expected to isolate factors affecting adoption of conservation behaviors at the farm level and will generate knowledge bases that will make it possible to implement more effective technology transfer programs within the region. The study will provide a tool to assess the environmental benefits of alternative management strategies.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 26 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 9 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

Nonpoint, nitrate, hydrology, streams, GIS, remote sensing., 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, Wet Weather Flows, Agronomy, Watersheds, anthropogenic stress, agriculturally impacted watershed, aquatic ecosystem, environmental monitoring, fate and transport, hydrological stability, nutrient transport, risk assessment, spatially distributed hydaulic models, wastewater treatment, Minnesota, Iowa, MN, biodiversity, soil and water conservation, agricultural discharges, farming, watershed, agricultural watershed, runoff, downstream effects, anoxia/hypoxia, biological integrity, decision model, hypoxic zones, regional scale predictive model, aquatic ecosystems, nutrient cycling, GIS, non-point sources, water quality, IA, remotely sensed data, land use

Relevant Websites:

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1998
  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • 2001 Progress Report
  • 2002
  • Final Report