Watershed Protection in Agricultural Environments: Integrated Social, Geomorphological, and Ecological Research to Support Ecosystem-based Stream ManagementEPA Grant Number: R825306
Title: Watershed Protection in Agricultural Environments: Integrated Social, Geomorphological, and Ecological Research to Support Ecosystem-based Stream Management
Investigators: Rhoads, Bruce L. , Herricks, Edwin E. , Wilson, David
Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: January 1, 1997 through December 31, 1999 (Extended to December 31, 2000)
Project Amount: $350,000
RFA: Water and Watersheds Research (1996) RFA Text | Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water and Watersheds , Water
Description:The objectives of the proposed research are to: 1) examine the social dynamics of community-based watershed projects, particularly the social context of local agents and institutions (local stakeholders) within which scientific knowledge about watershed protection is absorbed and acted on, and 2) to provide an improved scientific understanding of the connection between the geomorphological dynamics and ecological integrity of human-modified stream systems in the agricultural Midwest. The first objective derives from the premise that watershed protection is essentially a social process. In addressing this objective, the study will focus on how new scientific knowledge affects the degree to which local stakeholders value natural resources, specifically habitat and fisheries, and, in turn, how they approach stream management. The second objective derives from existing shortcomings in current scientific knowledge. Inadequate knowledge of the connection between geomorphological conditions and ecological integrity in human-modified agricultural streams severely limits the capacity to effect substantial ecosystem-based protection of agricultural watersheds, even in cases where existing knowledge can be effectively incorporated into community-based decision-making. To explore these issues, the research will employ an interdisciplinary approach that combines a theoretical perspective in social theory with a scientific perspective based on geomorphology and ecology.
The proposed project has a four-pronged research design: 1) historical analysis of the attitudes and values of rural stakeholders toward water and watersheds in the agricultural Midwest, 2) social analysis of the mechanisms that facilitate and impede infusion of new scientific knowledge into local decisions about stream management in agricultural watersheds, 3) research on the geomorphological and ecological dynamics of human-modified agricultural stream systems at the watershed and reach scales, and 4) dissemination of scientific information from the geomorphological and ecological research to farmers and other local stakeholders. The research will not only provide an improved scientific basis for stream-management strategies that enhance and protect the ecological integrity of agricultural streams, but will also reveal the points of penetration for infusing this scientific knowledge into the social mechanisms by which empowered local stakeholders structure and restructure watersheds.