Source: OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY submitted to
LANDSCAPE SCALE DISTURBANCES IN AN AGROECOSYSTEM: IMPACTS ON AQUATIC AND RIPARIAN ENVIRONMENTS IN THE SUGAR CREEK WATERSHED, OHIO
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
TERMINATED
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Annual
Accession No.
0204755
Grant No.
2005-51130-02362
Project No.
OHO00980-SS
Proposal No.
2005-04111
Multistate No.
(N/A)
Program Code
110.D
Project Start Date
Sep 15, 2005
Project End Date
Sep 14, 2009
Grant Year
2005
Project Director
Williams, L. R.
Recipient Organization
OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
1680 MADISON AVENUE
WOOSTER,OH 44691
Performing Department
SCHOOL OF NATURAL RESOURCES
Non Technical Summary
Certain agricultural practices contribute to the problem of water quality degradation in watersheds throughout the Midwestern U.S. Small (headwater) streams represent approximately 80% of a watershed and have been identified as critical components in efforts to reduce environmental pollution to downstream areas (e.g., Gulf of Mexico). Compared to large rivers, however, headwaters have received almost no attention from researchers despite their critical importance to water quality. The purpose of this study is to understand how agricultural land use affects water quality in headwater streams. Our hypothesis is that management of agricultural ecosystems that integrate values of local communities with scientific knowledge will be the most effective method of restoring water quality in watersheds while maintaining productivity of farming and economic viability of local communities.
Animal Health Component
(N/A)
Research Effort Categories
Basic
40%
Applied
60%
Developmental
(N/A)
Classification

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
1120320107050%
1330330107030%
8036099300020%
Goals / Objectives
The goal of this project is to examine how the structure and function of aquatic food webs in headwater streams are impacted by various land management practices with the aim of enhancing aquatic ecosystem function and water quality in agriculturally impaired watersheds. The proposed project will expand existing participatory research and education in headwater streams and the surrounding agricultural landscape of the Sugar Creek watershed of northeastern Ohio into a much-needed arena of aquatic ecosystem function. The Sugar Creek watershed is the second most degraded watershed in Ohio and agriculture is the major source of impairment. During the past four years, a multidisciplinary team of scientists has been working with local farming communities to develop a framework, methodology, and supporting data to improve water quality in the watershed (see http://sugarcreekmethod.osu.edu/). Our central hypothesis is that management of agroecosystems that integrates natural and social capital will be the most effective method of restoring ecological function in watersheds while maintaining productivity and economic viability of local communities. Our overall approach involves a dynamic and innovative linking of scientific knowledge and skills with the practical experience, knowledge and values of farmers and other landowners who live within the watershed. The proposed project will test our central hypothesis outlined earlier in this proposal and build upon existing work in the Sugar Creek watershed by addressing the following objectives: Objective 1: Quantify the structure and function of the aquatic invertebrate and vertebrate food webs in headwater tributaries representing a range of geographic and land management conditions within the Sugar Creek. Objective 2: Relate the function of aquatic ecosystems to land use characteristics as a framework for headwaters restoration, with emphasis on assessing riparian and cropland impacts on stream biota and ecosystem processes and the efficacy of current Best Management Practices (BMPs) for mitigating these impacts. Objective 3: Expand on our educational and extension outreach activities using headwaters restoration as a focal point to increase collaborative interactions among resource professionals, farm community members, and teachers and students in the public, private, and Amish parochial school systems in the Sugar Creek watershed.
Project Methods
We will use natural divisions in the watershed, along geologic/physiographic and sociological lines, and differences in dominant landuse as a convenient way to select sampling localities. We will sample headwater tributaries in three of the 6 subwatersheds including Upper, North, and South Forks, which differ in their dominant farming practices and geomorphology. The Upper Sugar Creek is dominated by row-crop agriculture and dairy farms and was historically glaciated as late as the Wisconsin epoch. North Fork is dominated by New-Order Amish farms and characterized as a periglacial environment with few ice-contact landforms. South Fork contains mostly Old-Order Amish Farms, was unglaciated, and is located in a different ecoregion (the Western Allegheny Plateau in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains). Alpine Cheese Factory, located in the Middle Fork subwatershed will fund BMPs to the South Fork and subsequent monitoring in a nutrient trading plan as part of their five year NDPES permit to reduce phosphorus. Ohio EPA found that the Middle Fork was the only Sugar Creek Watershed meeting attainment use. Within each of the three subwatersheds, we will select 3 to 4 primary headwater streams that represent the range of landuse types. From those streams, we will select 3 sites within each of 4 landuse categories (suburban/urban, row-crop agriculture, dairy/feed-lot, and forested), for a total of 12 sites per subwatershed and 36 overall. Sites with forested riparian areas in the landuse category will serve as reference sites in this study. Also, several sites in the South Fork will be utilized in a nutrient-trading project facilitated by Ohio EPA, and where possible we will attempt to include sites that may be used in the nutrient trading project to better understand how newly installed BMPs may influence functional ecology of the impacted sites. We will extensively sample stream biota (fishes and macroinvertebrates) and riparian vegetation across the watershed (all sites up to 2 times per year for 2 years). In addition, we will sample POM, DOM, and use stable isotope analyses to examine the cycling of carbon within the stream ecosystem. These data will enable us to establish important linkages between stream ecosystem function, the riparian corridor, and adjacent agricultural landuse. Outreach activities will center on farmer-research teams from the Sugar Creek watershed. Our efforts will link water quality research with participatory teams as learning communities and center on using ecological processes as management strategies at field, farm, and community/subwatershed scales. The education portion of the proposal will be addressed at many different levels: university education and curriculum development, professional development opportunities for teachers, and a mobile classroom designed for public schools in the Sugar Creek watershed. A thorough study of the ecology of Sugar Creek, linked with education and extension-outreach efforts, will provide meaningful data from which practical recommendations for watershed management improvements can be made and transferred to similar headwater systems across the state and region.

Progress 09/15/05 to 09/14/09

Outputs
OUTPUTS: 1. Completed one Ph.D. student (Deborah Hersha) and three M.S. students (Hector Santiago, Edward Moore, and Elizabeth Risley) at Ohio State University. 2. Three invited seminars (Texas A&M University, Bowling Green, University of Louisiana Monroe) 3. Invited speaker at American Fisheries Society meeting (2007) - "Headwaters at the Nexus" symposium. 4. Contributed papers at 7 national conferences over the project period. 5. Database of fish, macroinvertebrates, and habitat at 36 sites in Upper, North Fork, and South Fork of Sugar Creek, including evaluation of water quality condition. An additional 12 sites in Middle Fork of Sugar Creek were added. 6. Mobile classroom units were developed and used in elementary and high schools. Classroom units targeted to 5th and 11th grade and are available to schools in the Sugar Creek watershed through the Wilderness Center in Wilmot, Ohio. 7. Developed youth stream sampling and macroinvertebrate identification program for Amish - implemented at annual Family Farm Day in Mt. Hope, Ohio. PARTICIPANTS: PIs - Lance Williams, Marsha Williams, Virginie Bouchard, Charles Goebel, Richard Moore, David McCartney, and Deborah Stinner. Graduate students - Deborah Hersha, Hector Santiago, Elizabeth Risley, and Edward Moore. Undergraduate students and technicians - Rich Ciotola, Jeremy Pritt, Justin Walters, Bethany Riley, and Amanda Rapp. Partner organizations, collaborators, and contacts - University of Texas at Tyler, Ohio State University, OARDC, most school districts (private and public) in the Sugar Creek Watershed, Wayne and Holmes Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Alpine Cheese. TARGET AUDIENCES: The major outputs from this work will be the research results. We will provide guidance on how these results can be incorporated into future restoration efforts. This is already happening in the Upper Sugar Creek watershed. Our project built on an existing extension program in the Sugar Creek watershed (http://sugarcreekmethod.osu.edu/), so the framework and partnerships exist to allow the research results to be realized on the ground. Our educational target audience were 5th and 11th grade students in the watershed, including educators and the Wilderness Center at Wilmot, Ohio. Our mobile classroom units are available for use by teachers directly or by the National Science Foundation GK-12 fellows (we were awarded a grant 3 years ago). Units are focused on watershed ecology, especially as related to agricultural impacts to water quality and stream organisms. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: We included one additional sub-watershed, Middle Fork of Sugar Creek, because the opportunity arose to participate in designing a nutrient trading plan for Alpine Cheese.

Impacts
1. Developed new headwater protozoan sampling tools to evaluate water quality (D. Hersha - Ph.D. and publication in Hydrobiologia). 2. Developed new headwater macroinvertebrate water quality index (E. Moore - M.S. thesis). 3. Participated in developing a nutrient trading plan for Alpine Cheese (Middle Fork of Sugar Creek) to reduce phosphorus loadings and improve stream ecosystem function in both the Middle Fork and the South Fork, where dairy farms adopted Best Management Practices. 4. A more intensive effort was undertaken to quantify the ecological status of 81 sites in Upper Sugar Creek. These data will be used by Sugar Creek Partners (a landowner partnership) to prioritize impaired stream miles for restoration or BMP implementation. 5. Major scientific findings of the project were that stream biota showed that the configuration of the landscape (e.g., the degree of fragmentation and the location of woodlots) were as critical as local habitat in improving water quality. Restoration efforts should thus focus more on connecting high quality habitat patches than on site-specific restoration of local habitat, which can be very expensive. Stable isotope analysis showed a disconnect between organic matter dynamics and stream food webs, indicating restoration should focus more on reconnecting streams to their floodplain.

Publications

  • E. Risley. 2006. Relationships among land use, geomorphology, local habitat, and aquatic macroinvertebrate assemblages in agricultural headwater stream systems. M.S. Thesis, Ohio State University.
  • H. Santiago. 2007. Landscape factors influencing macroinvertebrate assemblages in a midwestern headwater stream. M.S. Thesis, Ohio State University.
  • D. Hersha. 2009. Agricultural effects on protist assemblage structure in headwater streams. Ph.D. Dissertation, Ohio State University.
  • Hersha, D.K., L.R. Williams, and V. Bouchard. 2009. Collection strategies for quantifying protist assemblages in temperate headwater streams. Hydrobiologia 630:115-126.
  • Moore, R., D. McCartney, L. Williams, and 13 others. 2005. A plan to reduce phosphorus loading and improve stream ecological function in the Middle Fork and adjoining watersheds of the Sugar Creek watershed: Joint recommendations for the Alpine Cheese phosphorus nutrient trading plan. Alpine Cheese Company, NDPES Permit Application to Ohio EPA.
  • The relationship between fish assemblages, watershed form and function, and local habitat in highly disturbed headwater streams. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon (2009)
  • A watershed scale approach for headwater stream restoration. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists Annual Conference, Portland, Oregon (2009)
  • Educational outreach in an impaired agricultural watershed. Ecological Society of America Annual Conference, Milwaukee, Wisconsin (2008)
  • The role of fish in headwater stream quality monitoring programs: local and landscape perspectives. Water Management Association of Ohio Conference, Columbus, Ohio (2006)
  • Protozoan bioassessment tool in headwater streams: an examination of collecting methods. Water Management Association of Ohio Conference, Columbus, Ohio. WINNER OF STUDENT POSTER COMPETITION (2006) - D. Hersha
  • Landscape perspectives on biological monitoring in headwater streams. Annual Meeting of the American Fisheries Society, Lake Placid, New York (2006)


Progress 09/15/07 to 09/14/08

Outputs
OUTPUTS: 1. Completed graduate student Hector Santiago (M.S. in Environment and Natural Resources) 2. Mobile classroom units were developed and used in elementary and high schools. Classroom units are targeted to 5th and 11th grade and are available to schools in the Sugar Creek watershed through the Wilderness Center in Wilmot, Ohio. Also, they can be used by the team involved in the recently awarded NSF GK-12 grant for schools in the watershed. 3. Participation in national conference - Ecological Society of America - one presentation. 4. Gave two invited lectures (Texas A&M University and University of Louisiana at Monroe on) on results of Sugar Creek research. 5. We are in the final stages of data analysis and report writing. PARTICIPANTS: PIs - Lance Williams, Marsha Williams, Virginie Bouchard, Charles Goebel, Richard Moore, David McCartney, and Deborah Stinner. Graduate students - Deborah Hersha and Hector Santiago. Undergraduate students and technicians - Rich Ciotola, Jeremy Pritt, Justin Walters, Bethany Riley, and Amanda Rapp. Partner organizations, collaborator, and contacts - University of Texas at Tyler, Ohio State University, OARDC, most school districts (public and private) in the Sugar Creek watershed, the Wilderness Center, Alpine Cheese Company, and Wayne and Holmes Soil and Water Conservation District. TARGET AUDIENCES: The major outputs from this work will be the research results. We will provide guidance on how these results can be incorporated into future restoration efforts. Our project built on an existing extension program in the Sugar Creek watershed (http://sugarcreekmethod.osu.edu/), so the framework and partnerships exist to allow the research results to be realized on the ground. Our educational target audiences were 5th and 11th grade students in the Sugar Creek watershed, including educators and the Wilderness Center. Our mobile classroom units are available for use by teachers directly or by the NSF GK-12 fellows. Units are focused on watershed ecology, especially as related to agricultural impacts to water quality and stream organisms. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period.

Impacts
1. Stream biota showed that configuration of the landscape (i.e., the degree of fragmentation and the location of woodlots) can be more critical than local habitat in improving water quality. Restoration should focus more on connecting high quality habitat patches than on site-specific restoration of local habitat. These results can guide future restoration projects, EPA 319 projects, etc. 2. The ecological status of 81 sites in the Upper Sugar Creek subwatershed was determined, and these results will be used by Sugar Creek Partners (landowner partnership) to prioritize impaired stream miles for restoration or BMP implementation. 3. Stable isotope analysis showed a disconnect between organic matter dynamics and stream food webs, indicating restoration should focus more on floodplain development. 4. Alpine Cheese Factory, in the Middle Fork subwatershed, will fund BMPs and monitoring to the more degraded South Fork of Sugar Creek in a nutrient-trading plan as part of their five year NDPES permit to reduce phosphorus. 5. Partnerships with every school district in the watershed were established. Using our curricula, Smithville High School Environmental Science class won a regional science fair. Our efforts were instrumental in developing a winning proposal to the National Science Foundation GK-12 program.

Publications

  • 1. Graduate student: Hector Santiago. 2007. Landscape factors influencing macroinvertebrate assemblages in a midwestern headwater stream. M.S. Environment and Natural Resources.
  • 2. Invited speaker: Williams, L.R. 2008. Seeing the forest and the trees: understanding the factors that shape headwater stream communities. Texas A&M University, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
  • 3. Invited speaker: Williams, L.R. 2007. Impacts of landscape scale disturbance on headwater stream communities. University of Louisiana at Monroe.
  • 4. Published abstract: Smiley, B.G., L.R. Williams, M.G. Williams, R.H. Moore, and V. Bouchard. 2008. Educational outreach in an impaired agricultural watershed. Ecological Society of America Annual Conference. Milwaukee, Wisconsin.


Progress 09/15/06 to 09/14/07

Outputs
OUTPUTS: 1. Stream in the Sugar Creek watershed were sampled during 2007 for fishes, macroinvertebrates, and habitat. A summary of results were presented at an invited symposium at the American Fisheries Society annual meeting in San Francisco, CA (see publications). 2. A working group of teachers, curriculum coordinators, and superintendents was established and met three times to develop curriculum materials for the project. Curriculum materials will be available for the 2007-2008 school year through the Wilderness Center and local bookmobile. PARTICIPANTS: PI - Lance Williams Co-PIs - Richard Moore, Virginie Bouchard, Marsha Williams, Dave McCartney, Charles Goebel, Deb Stinner Teachers - Laura Grimm, Tony Stoller, Lynda Price, Heidi Herr (Dalton, Smithville, Wilderness Center, and Kingsville Christian schools) Technicians - Eric Saas, Belynda Smiley Graduate students - Hector Santiago, Deborah Hersha (Hector completed his MS thesis in 2007)

Impacts
1. Research results from field sampling should enable us to better evaluate water quality in the Sugar Creek watershed. We can identify hot spots in need of conservation measures and make recommendations on improving water quality. 2. We are able to reach elementary, middle school, and high school teachers in the watershed with our curriculum materials. Three school districts are using the materials. One high school class (Smithville High School) won a regional science fair using the experiments we helped design (and sampling gear purchased with grant funds).

Publications

  • Williams, L. 2007. Impacts of landscape scale disturbances on headwater agricultural streams. Invited Speaker - Headwaters at the Nexus Symposium of The American Fisheries Society Meeting, San Francisco, CA
  • Williams, L. 2006. The role of fish in headwater stream quality monitoring programs: local and landscape perspectives. Water Management Association of Ohio Conference, Columbus, Ohio
  • Hersha, D. and Williams, L. 2006. Protozoan bioassessment tool in headwater streams: an examination of collecting methods. Water Management Association of Ohio Conference, Columbus, Ohio. WINNER OF STUDENT POSTER COMPETITION


Progress 09/15/05 to 09/15/06

Outputs
The goal of the project is to examine how the structure and function of aquatic food webs in headwater streams are impacted by various land management practices with the aim of enhancing aquatic ecosystem function and water quality in agriculturally impaired watersheds. Despite obvious sources of impairment, invertebrate communities and salamander populations unexpectedly indicated relatively high habitat quality in many stream reaches. These data are indicative of cool water habitat and permanent flow regimes, even though the overall Sugar Creek Watershed is classified as a warmwater ecosystem. Salamanders were associated with canopy cover, negatively associated with silt, and indicative of sharp transitions between wooded riparian and non-riparian habitat. Some headwater woodlots with suitable habitat were lacking salamanders. The isolation of woodlots in the Sugar Creek watershed makes recolonization of disturbed sites potentially difficult, and allows us to test theoretical predictions of island biogeography models based on the size and relative isolation of particular woodlots. The Index of Biological Diversity (a fish multimetric index) showed no significant relationship with riparian canopy. Preliminary data suggest that fish assemblages were weakly associated with local, instream habitat conditions and more strongly related to watershed hydrology and geomorphology. Overall, the data show significant variation between reaches, in some cases with sharp transitions, reflecting the heterogeneous pattern of adjacent land use. Our findings suggest a high degree of resilience in the watershed, albeit in patches, suggesting a high probability of restoration success, especially when emphasis is on maintaining or increasing year-round base-flow rates, establishing riparian habitat, and reducing sedimentation rates. Especially important will be targeted restoration that will connect healthy habitat patches. Understanding habitat in the landscape matrix may be more important than local habitat conditions in the systems we examined. To accomplish our education objectives, we are developing mobile classroom units in areas related to watershed ecology for K-12 classes in public, private, and Amish schools. All activities will meet benchmarks and standards developed by the state of Ohio. Planning of the mobile classroom units began summer 2006. Development of specific educational modules will be teacher-driven, with OSU researchers assisting with activity development, technology, and equipment. A pilot group of teachers have organized themselves into a working group and will implement programs in their classes during 2006-2007. Students in participating classes will have the opportunity to participate in field and laboratory experiments.

Impacts
Our central hypothesis is that management of agroecosystems that integrates natural and social capital will be the most effective method of restoring ecological function in watersheds while maintaining productivity and economic viability of local communities. Our project should increase understanding of how stream food webs are structured by terrestrial processes in agroecosystems. We will address the efficacy of Best Management Practices (especially those that integrate upland and riparian management and focus on enhancing carbon processing) for mitigating negative impacts of land use. We also will develop recommendations for stream restoration to improve water quality.

Publications

  • Graduate Student Thesis: Elizabeth Risley. 2006. Relationships among land use, geomorphology, local habitat, and aquatic macroinvertebrate assemblages in an agricultural headwater stream system. M.S. Environment and Natural Resources.
  • Invited Presentation: The role of fish in headwater streams: local and landscape perspectives. Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH (2006)
  • Presentation (Published Abstracts): Williams, L.R., M.G. Williams, J.L. DAmbrosio, J.D. Witter, and A. Ward. 2006. The role of fish in headwater stream quality monitoring programs: local and landscape perspectives. Water Management Association of Ohio Conference, Columbus, Ohio.
  • Hersha, D. and L.R. Williams. 2006. Protozoan bioassessment tool in headwater streams: an examination of collecting methods. Water Management Association of Ohio Conference, Columbus, Ohio. WINNER OF STUDENT POSTER COMPETITION
  • Williams, L.R. 2006. Stream biota and the management of riparian zones. Ohio Soil and Water Conference, Columbus, Ohio.
  • Williams, L.R., M.G. Williams, J.L. DAmbrosio, J.D. Witter, and M.A. Schrecengost. 2006. Landscape perspectives on biological monitoring in headwater streams. Annual Meeting of the American Fisheries Society, Lake Placid, New York.