Community Values and the Long-term Ecological Integrity of Rapidly Urbanizing Watersheds

EPA Grant Number: R825758
Title: Community Values and the Long-term Ecological Integrity of Rapidly Urbanizing Watersheds
Investigators: Beck, Michael B. , Norton, Bryan G. , Patten, Bernard C. , Porter, Karen G. , Rasmussen, Todd C. , Steinemann, Anne C.
Current Investigators: Beck, Michael B. , Norton, Bryan G. , Patten, Bernard C. , Rasmussen, Todd C. , Steinemann, Anne C.
Institution: University of Georgia , Georgia Institute of Technology
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: June 1, 1998 through May 31, 2001 (Extended to February 28, 2004)
Project Amount: $849,999
RFA: Water and Watersheds Research (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water , Water and Watersheds


Watersheds within the suburbs and surroundings of metropolitan Atlanta are expected to experience substantial development over the next two decades. Indeed, Atlanta's continued rapid economic development could be constrained by problems of access to sufficient water supplies from the relatively small headwater catchments to its north. Within these watersheds lies Lake Lanier, the single most important impoundment in Georgia, which is used for hydro-electric power generation, water supply, flood protection and, most significantly, recreation.

The objective of the proposed research is to develop the prototype of a new approach to engaging both community interests and a complex (mathematical) representation of the lake's ecosystem in exploring how shorter-term individual preferences can be reconciled with longer-term community values in regard to maintaining the integrity of an environmental system. Our primary hypothesis is that citizens' value commitments are dependent upon scale (both in time and place) and that these scales have their counterparts in the range of time-constants typifying the behavior of the physical system. Two of these scales, the short term (spanning 0-5 years) and the long term (20-100 years), reflect respectively the relatively rapid fluctuations in the levels of chemical and biological components of the lake's ecosystem and much slower changes in the structure of how these components interact with each other. Our secondary hypothesis is that: (i) radical shifts of behavior, as gauged by qualitatively different patterns of model outputs, may be a function of slowly evolving changes in the values of the model's coefficients; and (ii) longer-term change, and hence maintenance of the integrity of a system, is primarily a function of such coefficient variations.


In the proposed approach we seek to facilitate adaptive community learning by working with small groups of stakeholders (as opposed to large, open, public workshops). The procedure will comprise several iterations around the cycle of eliciting community values, allowing their modification, encoding stakeholder concerns about the long-term future (as target values to be matched by the model's simulation results), identifying consensus on policy options, and generating insight into the attainability of the target futures through the scientific model. The model will be developed from past studies of Lanier and its watershed, but incorporate new material for description of the microbial food-web and sediment biochemistry, the latter being supported by modest field and laboratory work.

Expected Results:

Broadly, the model will be used within the computational framework of a sensitivity analysis employing Monte Carlo simulation. In addition to developing and testing a prototype approach to facilitating adaptive community learning, with special reference to preserving the attainability of goals on an inter-generational temporal scale, the project is expected to deliver a new model for the dynamics of an ecosystem in a SouthEastern impoundment and policy guidance on options for maintaining the longer-term integrity of such a

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 97 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

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

Supplemental Keywords:

Georgia, Lake Lanier, watershed, sediment, biogeochemistry., RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Water, Hydrology, Water & Watershed, Geochemistry, Biochemistry, decision-making, Ecology and Ecosystems, Watersheds, Economics & Decision Making, ecosystem valuation, water resources, biogeochemical study, long term ecological integrity, urban watershed rehabilitation method, valuation of watersheds, community-based research, coefficient variations, availability of water resources, aquatic ecosystems, water quality, lake ecosysyems, Monte Carlo simulations, ecological indicators, ecology assessment models, public policy, microbial food web

Progress and Final Reports:

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