Linking Land Use Change, Stream Geomorphology, and Aquatic Biodiversity in a Hierarchical Classification Scheme

     AND

Linking Land Use Change, Stream Geomorphology, and Aquatic Integrity in Changing Forested Landscapes

Personnel: Austin Troy, with Mary Watzin (PI), Cully Hession, and William Keeton

Cooperators: US EPA: Science to Achieve Results (STAR) Watershed Classification, Northeastern States Research Cooperative

We are developing and evaluating a watershed and stream reach classification system based on the relationship between land use change, river geomorphic condition, riparian habitat fragmentation, and riverine ecological condition.  The goal is a geographically independent management tool that can be applied in a hierarchical approach, linking changes in land use to expected changes in geomorphology and the riparian corridor, and then linking geomorphology to aquatic ecology.  Because different factors and responses might be expected at different scales, the classification system will explicitly address issues of scale. Our objectives are as follows:  (1) Beginning at the finer scale, determine which geomorphic classes can be consistently related to the ecological condition of a stream reach, (2) Expanding to a coarser scale, determine what land use metrics best predict those geomorphic classes that consistently relate to ecological condition, (3) Evaluate the ability of our classification system to target sites in greatest need of watershed management and stream restoration based on current land use and geomorphology, (4) Develop and evaluate the ability of our classification system to identify sites in need of conservation based on predicted land use change and resulting effects on geomorphology and aquatic ecology, and (5) Develop a general framework for the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and others to use the resulting classification system as a foundation for statewide watershed protection, management, restoration, and education.  To predict land use change, we are creating an urban growth simulation model for Northern Vermont, which predict development as a function of a variety of economic, spatial and environmental variables. We are experimenting with using discrete metrics of land use change (binary pixel values) as well as continuous measures that incorporate sub-pixel measures of change in impervious surface. We will also use the land use change model to conduct a policy simulation. By altering policy inputs to the model, we can see how predicted development patterns would change and how that, in turn, would influence watershed function.

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       Updated: 12 December 2002