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Representation of regional urban development conditions using a watershed-based gradient study design

May 31, 2012

As part of the U.S. Geological Survey National Water-Quality Assessment Program, the effects of urbanization on stream ecosystems (EUSE) have been intensively investigated in nine metropolitan areas in the United States, including Boston, Massachusetts; Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; Raleigh, North Carolina; Salt Lake City, Utah; Denver, Colorado; Dallas–Fort Worth, Texas; Portland, Oregon; and Milwaukee–Green Bay, Wisconsin. Each of the EUSE study area watersheds was associated with one ecological region of the United States. This report evaluates whether each metropolitan area can be generalized across the ecological regions (ecoregions) within which the EUSE study watersheds are located. Seven characteristics of the EUSE watersheds that affect stream ecosystems were examined to determine the similarities in the same seven characteristics of the watersheds in the entire ecoregion. Land cover (percentage developed, forest and shrubland, and herbaceous and cultivated classes), average annual temperature, average annual precipitation, average surface elevation, and average percentage slope were selected as human-influenced, climate, and topography characteristics. Three findings emerged from this comparison that have implications for the use of EUSE data in models used to predict stream ecosystem condition. One is that the predominant or "background" land-cover type (either forested or agricultural land) in each ecoregion also is the predominant land-cover type within the associated EUSE study watersheds. The second finding is that in all EUSE study areas, the watersheds account for the range of developed land conditions that exist in the corresponding ecoregion watersheds. However, six of the nine EUSE study area watersheds have significantly different distributions of developed land from the ecoregion watersheds. Finally, in seven of the nine EUSE/ecoregion comparisons, the distributions of the values of climate variables in the EUSE watersheds are different from the distributions for watersheds in the corresponding ecoregions.

Publication Year 2012
Title Representation of regional urban development conditions using a watershed-based gradient study design
DOI 10.3133/sir20125070
Authors Silvia Terziotti, Gerard McMahon, Amanda H. Bell
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2012-5070
Index ID sir20125070
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization South Atlantic Water Science Center