Integrating Modeling and Management of Agriculturally-Impacted Watersheds, Issues of Spatial and Temporal Scale

EPA Grant Number: R825290
Title: Integrating Modeling and Management of Agriculturally-Impacted Watersheds, Issues of Spatial and Temporal Scale
Investigators: Brezonik, Patrick L. , Perry, James A. , Easter, K. William , Wilson, Bruce , Mulla, David , Bell, James , Brooks, Kenneth , Olson, Kent , Gerlach, Luther
Current Investigators: Brezonik, Patrick L. , Perry, James A. , Smith, Richard C. , Fang, Andrew F. , Gowda, Prasanna H. , Birr, Adam S. , Easter, K. William , Gleason (Dovciak), Anne , O'Connor, Ben , Dalzell, Brent , Wheeler, Daniel , Mulla, David , Davis, David , Tidwell, Jason , Bell, Jay , ZumBerge, Jeremy , Westra, John , Marr, Kara , Brooks, Kenneth , Olson, Kent , McCann, Laura , Mathews, Leah , Hatch, Lorin , Gerlach, Luther , Talmadge, Philip , Johansson, Robert
Institution: University of Minnesota
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: October 1, 1996 through September 30, 1999 (Extended to March 31, 2001)
Project Amount: $813,085
RFA: Water and Watersheds Research (1996) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water and Watersheds , Water


Scientists and managers concerned with watershed management are faced with a dilemma. Scientists are developing models that explicitly address cumulative effects, large spatial scales and longer time frames, but societal policy shifts are forcing managers to make decisions on an increasingly more local basis. Effective implementation of watershed management principles requires models that resolve this dilemma, e.g., models that incorporate knowledge about effects at longer temporal scales and larger spatial scales into more localized decision making. This project will help resolve this dilemma.

Our work will focus on the Minnesota River Basin because it presents great opportunities for integrative research that will advance watershed science and also contribute to solving a major environmental problem. The basin drains 40,000 km2, including 34,000 km2 of intensively farmed land in southern Minnesota. The river is one of the most polluted in the country and carries high loadings of N, P, pesticides, bacteria, and sediment, mostly from diffuse sources, to the Mississippi River, which it joins at the Twin Cities. Since 1989, a state-initiated program, the Minnesota River Assessment Program, has studied water quality in the basin and set improvement objectives. The program has moved into an implementation phase in which comprehensive basin plans are being developed that include BMPs for farm management, wildlife and habitat protection, sewage treatment facilities, riparian zone and wetland restoration, and pesticide/nutrient management. However, these plans rest on an incomplete research base. Barriers to implementation include lack of knowledge about sources and about and effectiveness of proposed BMPs. Our project will address these and other needs and has one overarching objective: "Improve understanding of how bio-physical and social-economic variables intereact in agricultural watersheds of varying scales, landscape conditions, and land-use management practices to affect export of nutrients and their effects on in-stream biological communities, and in turn to assess the role of knowledge about those effects in decision-making processes affecting local level land use."

We will conduct the research in three coordinated phases, respectively dealing with landscape processes, aquatic processes, and social-economic issues. Biophysical phases of the project will encompass spatial scales ranging from the whole drainage basin to several sizes of watersheds and field scale. Our research will have practical benefits for river basin management and conceptual advances for watershed science. In particular, we will improve: (1) ways to account for scale effects in hydrologic and nutrient transport modeling within watersheds; (2) understanding of the effectiveness of agro-ecosystems as complementary landscape units (to watersheds) for analysis of nutrient export from the land; (3) understanding of scales at which aquatic ecosystems process and retain nutrients and how they influence rates of stream recovery when land management practices are improved; and (4) ways to identify priorities for controlling diffuse sources of sediments and P based on technical, social, and economic feasibility. All of these are critical for protection of aquatic ecosystems by integrated watershed management.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 17 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 5 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

watershed, ecosystem, aquatic, habitat, riparian, wetland, nutrient, hydrology, modeling, midwest, Minnesota, agriculture., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Toxics, Geographic Area, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Hydrology, Nutrients, Water & Watershed, exploratory research environmental biology, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Chemical Mixtures - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecosystem Protection, pesticides, State, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecological Effects - Human Health, Ecology and Ecosystems, Watersheds, Ecological Indicators, anthropogenic stress, aquatic ecosystem, basin hydrology, environmental monitoring, fate and transport, nutrient transport, agriculturally impacted watershed, Minnesota, ecological exposure, bacteria, watershed management, agricultural watershed, Midwestern U.S., modeling, spatial and temporal scale, sediment runoff, aquatic ecosystems

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1997
  • 1998
  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000
  • Final Report