Understanding Ecological Processes in Channelized Headwater Systems is a Key to Ecosystem Protection while Maintaining Crop Production

Investigators: Andy Ward, Lance Williams, Marsha Williams, Ed Herricks, David Allan, Jennifer Janssen

Project Overview: An interdisciplinary and multi-institutional team of scientists and engineers located at the University of Illinois, University of Michigan, and The Ohio State University will study channel systems in watersheds that are important to the region and discharge to the Great Lakes or the Gulf of Mexico (U.S. EPA 2003; Goal 4, Objective 4.3). The study will build on knowledge, primarily based on work conducted by members of our research team, that suggests: (1) the development of fluvial features in agricultural channels is predictable; (2) the capacity to sustain ecosystems in modified and constructed channel systems is more a function of the fluvial features and vegetation within the channels and their connectivity or proximity to the nearest “good” habitat or population source, than the land use management practices along the top of the banks of these systems; and (3) existing maintenance practices that disrupt the successional development of channel ecosystems have a yet to be quantified impact on water quality and ecology. We anticipate that the proposed study will provide needed integration of geomorphology, hydrology and ecology to provide reach to watershed scale guidance for management of watersheds dominated by agricultural land use.

Funding Sources: United States Environmental Protection Agency Regional Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program