Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2009 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

The effects of urban infrastructure on stream health in the Gwynns Falls, Baltimore MD
Dandois, Jonathan
Co-Authors: Michael Pennino, Aditi Bhaskar, Tara Willey, Garth Lindner, Jeanna Ragsdale, Jonathan Dandois

Abstract: A thorough understanding of anthropogenic effects on urban stream processes is critical to protecting urban water resources. Previous studies have largely focused on quantifying the urban influence on stream water quality through coarse spatial scale landscape measures, primarily the amounts of urban land use and impervious surface. However, urban areas are a mosaic of fine scale patterns of land use and land cover that are not well represented by aggregate descriptors like "low-" or "medium density development" derived from medium to coarse spatial scale remote sensing products. Such descriptors are also inadequate for representing fine scale infrastructure features, e.g., storm drains and road culverts, that are known to affect urban stream processes and cannot be resolved by remote sensing alone. Understanding the influence of fine scale features of development on urban streams may be more useful for management of stream health than coarse scale features and should be included in studies of fine scale heterogeneity. This work investigates how fine scale features of urban development influence water quality within the Gwynns Falls watershed of Baltimore, Maryland. To assess water quality, long-term data on stream nutrient levels was obtained from the Baltimore Ecosystem Study. Fine scale landscape heterogeneity within each sub-catchment was quantified using storm drain density, storm drain connectivity, number of road crossings and road crossing density. Preliminary results indicate that the coarser scale landscape measures show stronger relationships with nutrient levels than the measures of fine scale features.