Development of Watershed Classification Systems for Diagnosis of Biological Impairment in Watersheds and Their Receiving Water Bodies

EPA Grant Number: R830597
Title: Development of Watershed Classification Systems for Diagnosis of Biological Impairment in Watersheds and Their Receiving Water Bodies
Investigators: Martinko, Ed , Dobson, Jerome E. , Huggins, Donald , Jakubauskas, Mark E. , Liechti, Paul M. , Price, Kevin , Thorp, James , Whistler, Jerry L. , deNoyelles, Frank J.
Institution: University of Kansas
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: March 3, 2003 through March 2, 2006
Project Amount: $899,683
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 objective is to produce a tiered, ecoregionally-stratified system of watershed classification for predicting biological impairments and for recommending ecosystem rehabilitation in small watersheds through those supporting great rivers. Our hypothesis is that landscape-scale surrogates for watershed condition derived from remotely sensed and geospatial data can be used to predict watershed vulnerability and potential impacts on water quality. We will identify key landscape-scale indicators of watershed condition and develop a classification model for prioritizing vulnerable watersheds and monitoring changes in watershed vulnerability. Once the model has been constructed, we will test its predictions about relative differences in biotic health of streams using an Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI). The IBI will be developed based on metrics of species composition, richness, and density obtained from new data collected in 40 non-wadeable rivers. Finally, the proposed model will be evaluated for its ability to use archived and current data to reliably forecast changes in watershed condition contributing to impairment or rehabilitation.


Our watershed classification model is based upon sets of spatial data that can be used as landscape metrics that either directly or indirectly influence watershed impairment. While this set of spatial data serves as a common resource and starting point for classifying watersheds, individual watershed classification models will be derived on an ecoregional basis at two nested spatial scales: HUC-8/11 and HUC 14 watersheds. To drive this analysis, a set of watersheds representing varying degrees of impairment is needed. For initial model development and testing, existing water quality, GIS, and remotely sensed data from the Kansas Biological Survey, the Kansas Applied Remote Sensing Program, and EPA Region VII will be used. The model will be tested using a new set of water quality and stream condition data sampled during Years 1 and 2 of the proposed study.

Expected Results:

The outcomes of this research will be twofold. First, a set of ecoregionally- based models for watershed classification in a transitional area of the Central Basin encompassing EPA Region VII will be produced. Second, we will produce and test a methodology for developing models that can be applied in other EPA regions and terrestrial ecoregions to identify and monitor vulnerable watersheds. The innovative aspects of this research are: (1) the use of commonly available landscape-scale remotely sensed and GIS data to develop surrogates of watershed phenology and landscape condition that relate to water quality and watershed impairment, and (2) the development of hierarchical, scalable models that can be used both for classifying existing watersheds and for monitoring changes in watershed condition and status.

Supplemental Keywords:

landscape metrics, modeling, remote sensing, water quality, phenology, aquatic, geographic information systems, Midwest, ecoregions, large rivers, EPA Region VII., RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, ECOSYSTEMS, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, Water & Watershed, Aquatic Ecosystem, Monitoring/Modeling, Terrestrial Ecosystems, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Watersheds, anthropogenic stress, bioassessment, anthropogenic processes, watershed classification, ecosystem monitoring, watershed management, biodiversity, conservation, diagnostic indicators, ecosystem indicators, biota diversity, aquatic ecosystems, bioindicators, watershed sustainablility, water quality, biological indicators, ecosystem stress, watershed assessment, conservation planning, ecosystem response, aquatic biota, restoration planning, watershed restoration

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2003
  • 2004 Progress Report
  • Final