2024 Abstracts

Watershed Dynamics and Evolution Science Focus Area: Overview


Eric M. Pierce1* (pierceem@ornl.gov), Marie Kurz1, Elizabeth Herndon1, Alexander Johs1, Scott Brooks1, Natalie Griffiths1, Scott Painter1, Saubhagya Rathore1, Jesus Gomez-Velez1, Xin Gu1, Dan Lu1, Kamini Singha2, Holly Barnard3, Erin Hotchkiss4, Matthew Cohen5, Lydia Zeglin6, Adam Ward7


1Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN; 2Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO; 3University of Colorado–Boulder, Boulder, CO; 4Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA; 5University of Florida, Gainesville, FL; 6Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS; 7Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR



The freshwater provisioning and regulating services provided by mid-order watersheds are under increasing stress driven by accelerating changes in land use and land cover (LULC) and an intensifying hydrologic cycle. Predicting the long-term consequences of such hydrologic intensification and LULC change (watershed evolution) at regional scales requires an improved, transferable understanding of how watershed function depends on environmental conditions (watershed dynamics). The Watershed Dynamics and Evolution (WaDE) science focus area project aims to advance predictive understanding of how dominant processes controlling watershed hydro-biogeochemical function operate under a range of hydrologic regimes and vary along stream networks that drain heterogeneous land covers.

The WaDE research plan addresses critical knowledge gaps related to how watershed function responds to exogenous change, using stream metabolism as a key integrative measure of upland-stream interactions and stream corridor processes. The team also address gaps in observation networks that have been biased toward higher-order streams with homogeneous watershed LULC by systematically targeting watersheds with heterogeneous land cover that are broadly representative of watersheds in the Tennessee River Basin (TRB), the most intensively used freshwater resource region in the contiguous United States.

In this presentation the team will discuss progress made towards fulfilling overarching goals. Since June 2023, the team has not only published manuscripts, but researchers have held the annual all-hands meeting, performed storm sampling during the first flush after an unprecedented drought, encoded a representation of stream metabolism in the Advance Terrestrial Simulator tool, engaged in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) outreach discussions with Oak Ridge High School (TN), selected and instrumented all of the intensive sites in watershed 1 (East Fork Poplar Creek, TN), initiated observations in watershed 2 (Reddy Creek, TN), and have placed sensors in 24 other mid-order watersheds across the TRB to evaluate watershed similarity assumptions.