Science Inventory

DEVELOPMENT OF WATERSHED MANAGEMENT AND DECISION SUPPORT TOOLS FOR THE CANAAN VALLEY INSTITUTE (CVI) RIPARIAN ZONE AND STREAM RESTORATION

Impact/Purpose:

The overall objective is to develop watershed modeling tools for the immediate client (CVI) and their stakeholders in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands. This research continues the contributions that REVA has made to the CVI toolset and adds modeling and decision support capabilities for more general use by managers. To facilitate the prediction and analysis of fish health issues by EPA Program and Regional Offices and other environmental agencies, process-based models that describe these processes will be implemented:

1. the expected trophic dynamics of the dominant fish species

2. the spawning and recruitment dynamics of the dominant fish species

3. the bioaccumulation of organic chemicals and metals in aquatic biota

4. how physical habitat and chemical water quality impact fish feeding, reproduction, survival, and migration

To facilitate the use and application of these models, graphical user interfaces (GUI), supporting databases, and libraries of management scenarios will also be developed. Models will be linkable to integrated water quality and hydrologic models that simulate habitat characteristics (e.g., water depth, current velocity, water temperature and sediment loadings) that determine the survival, reproduction, and recruitment of fish and aquatic invertebrates. Similar to what has been achieved in REVA, frameworks based on the biogeography of fish will be developed to apply these models spatially for regional assessments of important fish health issues.

Objectives of this task between FY03 and FY05:

To provide modeling and decision support capabilities for aquatic resources compatible with existing geographic information (GIS) frameworks to evaluate effectiveness (and ultimately cost-benefit) of restoration activities planned in Region 3, initially the Mid-Atlantic Highlands region. This includes the primary interests in evaluating riparian zone restoration (using Rosgen methods) and acid mine drainage remediation.

To develop methods that explicitly link process models and spatial analysis methods across spatial and temporal scales.

To identify knowledge and information gaps in the integration of REVA and process models that enable projections of future ecosystem state.

To create a new generation of quantitative environmental assessment tools that explicitly address issues of scale, are not restricted in extent of application, and enable efficient rescaling (both spatial and temporal).

This research supports long-term goals established in ORD's multi-year research plans for Both GPRA Goal 2 (Water Quality) and Goal 8.1.1 (Sound Science/Ecological Research). This research will provide the tools to assess and diagnose impairment in aquatic ecosystems and the sources of associated stressors and to forecast the ecological, economic and human health outcomes of alternative solutions. Central to this task (as described in Goal 8) is the development and demonstration of methods to the states, tribes and local managers to: (1) assess the condition of waterbodies in a scientifically-defensible and representative way while allowing for aggregation and assessment of trends at multiple scales, (2) diagnose cause and forecast future condition in a scientifically defensible fashion to more effectively protect and restore valued ecosystems, and (3) assess current and future ecological conditions, probable causes of impairments and management alternatives.

Description:

The USEPA Mid-Atlantic Highlands Streams Assessment (MAHA) report concluded that over 31% of stream miles in the Mid-Atlantic Highlands were in poor condition, and only 17% stream miles could be considered to be in good condition, based on their fish populations. Insect populations gave a slightly better reading, with 27% of stream miles in poor condition and 25% stream miles in good condition, as judged by the aquatic insects present. An important finding of both metrics is that the majority of streams are in fair to poor condition. Within the Allegheny Monongahela watershed that encompasses a majority of the Highlands region, riparian habitat alteration (28%), acidic deposition (26%), mine drainage (20%), and fish tissue contamination (19%) were the major stressors associated with stream miles. All of these stressors were associated with at least 20% of the stream miles in this watershed. Non-native fish species were found in 46% of the stream miles in this watershed. It is the mission of the Canaan Valley Institute (CVI) to be responsive to the environmental concerns of citizens and watershed groups in the Highlands region. CVI has identified riparian zone restoration, acid mine drainage remediation (AMD) and Rosgen Natural Stream Channel Design (NSCD) as the methods to be applied instream and near stream to improve ecological condition. What is required by CVI are the tools to evaluate the effectiveness of these measures in a range of streams and watershed conditions.

This task directly supports the Regional Vulnerability Program (REVA) by developing models that address ecological cause and effect relationships: providing reliable, robust predictors of future ecosystem state to address vulnerability and sustainability questions of interest. NERL-Athens' (ERD) role in this task will be to provide models and geographically-based decision support tools that are object-oriented and easily maintained. Where feasible, using EMAP and other data sources, REVA will perform assessments of vulnerability in the Highlands for selected stressors, initiating the "coarse filter" in the assessment for sediment, acid mine drainage (AMD), riparian habitat loss, and aquatic invasive species. CVI, as a partner in this research, and NERL/ERD will then evaluate feasibility of model development by investigating datasets in the identified watersheds. Some stressors may not be feasible to identify during the screening level (e.g., instream habitat quality, invasives). Trout fishery productivity/sustainability has been selected by CVI as the primary ecological endpoint, in addition to other socioeconomic concerns such as flooding. This research complements REVA's terrestrial focus, which includes endpoints such as Black Bears and the Cerulean Warbler. Models will be applied at multiple spatial and temporal scales, depending on the level of the assessment and the amount of data available. Both dynamic and steady-state approaches will be used. Information provided will include the trajectories of recovery/change in the endpoint such that degree and time to desired response can be evaluated. Model development in selected watersheds will involve National Exposure Research Lab (landscape indicators, EMAP, REVA), National Risk Management Research Lab (riparian restoration, sustainability), and National Human and Ecological Exposure Research Lab (economic cost/benefit, systems modeling). An important outcome of this task will be the identification of data and methodological gaps in the desired unification of spatial modeling (GIS, landscape ecology and spatial analysis) and process modeling (mathematical descriptions of causal relationships in complex systems). Although a longer term research goal, this does not preclude the development of software tools using best available data and knowledge bases to meet short term client needs.

Record Details:

Record Type: PROJECT
Start Date: 02/01/2003
Projected Completion Date: 09/01/2005
OMB Category: Other
Record ID: 56127

Organization:

U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY

OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT

NATIONAL EXPOSURE RESEARCH LABORATORY

ECOSYSTEMS RESEARCH DIVISION

ECOSYSTEMS ASSESSMENT BRANCH