2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 276-4
Presentation Time: 8:55 AM


GROFFMAN, Peter, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, 2801 Sharon Turnpike, Millbrook, NY 12545, groffmanp@caryinstitute.org

In the Baltimore Ecosystem Study, one of two urban long-term ecological research (LTER) projects funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, we are using “the watershed approach” to integrate ecological, physical and social sciences. Watersheds are a natural (and well-used) physical unit for bio-geo-chemical research and can also function as a focus for human-environment interactions, i.e. bio-geo-socio-chemistry. Suburban watershed input/output budgets for nitrogen (N) have shown surprisingly high retention which has led to detailed analysis of sources and sinks in these watersheds. Home lawns, thought to be major sources of N in suburban watersheds, have more complex coupled carbon and N dynamics than previously thought, and are likely the site of much N retention. Riparian zones, thought to be an important sink for N in many watersheds, have turned out be N sources in urban watersheds due to hydrologic changes that disconnect streams from their surrounding landscape. Geomorphic stream restoration designed to reverse structural degradation caused by urban runoff can increase in-stream retention by creating features with high denitrification potential. Considering the “human element” in these biogeochemical source and sink processes is critical to improving the environmental performance of urban and suburban ecosystems. The watershed approach can also help to improve the flow of information between science and society, which is a great challenge due to differences in objectives, methodologies and communication among stakeholder groups. The Monitoring, Modeling, and Research workgroup of the Baltimore Urban Waters Partnership is implementing a long‐term monitoring network that will enable stakeholders to track watershed level improvements to water quality, assess impacts and success of restoration and management efforts, provide flood‐related information and help answer resilience and sustainability questions. This effort has the potential to bring different groups together to increase awareness of their different activities and to catalyze cooperation on key topics in focal areas. If effective, it could provide a model for improving the flow of information from science to society and management for many environmental issues in many areas.