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Individual Highlight

Linking Land Use to Water Quality

Photo of Modeled spring runoff total phosphorus (mg/L) and turbidity (NTU) for watersheds with observed values (gauged) and based on landscape variables only (unguaged) for Lake Michigan.  Gray areas are the portions of the basin not modeled.  Charles Perry, USDA Forest ServiceModeled spring runoff total phosphorus (mg/L) and turbidity (NTU) for watersheds with observed values (gauged) and based on landscape variables only (unguaged) for Lake Michigan. Gray areas are the portions of the basin not modeled. Charles Perry, USDA Forest ServiceSnapshot : Sediment and phosphorus delivery to the Great Lakes is influenced by land use and land cover patterns. Forest Service scientists studied the impacts of these patterns on streams draining into the western Great Lakes (Superior and Michigan). Their results from studying gauged streams may be used to prioritize restoration investments in watersheds that are not monitored.

Principal Investigators(s) :
Perry, Charles H. (Hobie) 
Research Location : Western Great Lakes (Lakes Superior and Michigan)
Research Station : Northern Research Station (NRS)
Year : 2014
Highlight ID : 629

Summary

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is investing hundreds of millions of dollars to improve the quality of the Great Lakes. One of the projects promotes nearshore health and prevention of harmful algal blooms. But might these problems be minimized through wise management and stewardship of the lakes' watersheds Forest Service scientists demonstrated that sediment and phosphorus delivery to the lakes is influenced by land use and land cover and their change over time. For example, phosphorus levels in Lake Superior increased with the proportion of persisting forest, forest disturbed during 2000-2009, and agricultural land; sediments (turbidity) increased with the proportion of persisting forest, forest disturbed during 2000-2009, agricultural land, and urban land. In both cases, agriculture and forest disturbance were the most important predictors of water quality impairment. Water quality is not measured everywhere. Forest Service scientists developed models to predict likely water quality problems in streams that are not monitored. This will allow land managers to prioritize restoration investments and management activities across the entire basin, monitored and not monitored. The supporting inventory and forest canopy cover change data were published for the public's use in their own assessments.

Forest Service Partners

External Partners

  • Region 9, USDA Forest Service, Milwaukee, WI
  • Remote Sensing Applications Center, USDA Forest Service, Salt Lake City, UT
  • US Environmental Protection Agency