Watershed Dynamics and Evolution Science Focus Area: Overview


Eric M. Pierce1* ([email protected]), Marie Kurz1, Elizabeth Herndon1, Alexander Johs1, Scott Brooks1, Natalie Griffiths1, Scott Painter1, Saubhagya Rathore1, Jesus Gomez-Velez1, Xin Gu1, Dan Lu1, Mircea Podar2, Melissa Cregger2, Kamini Singha3, Holly Barnard4, Erin Hotchkiss5, Matthew Cohen6, Lydia Zeglin7, Adam Ward8


1Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN; 2Biosciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, TN; 3Department of Geology and Geological Engineering, Colorado School of Mines, Golden, CO; 4Department of Geography, University of Colorado–Boulder, Boulder, CO; 5Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA; 6School of Forest, Fisheries, and Geomatics Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL; 7Division of Biology, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS; 8Department of Biological and Ecological Engineering, Oregon 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). An integrated experimental, observational, and modeling program is proposed with the 9-year objective 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 program’s 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. Also addressed are 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, the most intensively used freshwater resource region in the contiguous United States.