Baltimore Ecosystem Study Institute of Ecosystem Studies

2010 BES Annual Meeting Presentation and Poster Abstracts

Urban Streams: The four dimensions of an ecological stream continuum
Belt, Kenneth
Co-Authors: Sujay Kaushal

Abstract: Urbanization is rapidly increasing in many areas of the world, and has greatly changed hydrologic connectivity at the landscape scale. Moreover, the extent of these areas continues to increase to the point where a new conceptual approach to urban stream ecology is needed. An "urban stream continuum" framework that goes beyond the "effects" on aquatic ecosystems and beyond a focus on the "urban stream syndrome" approach must first adopt a perspective that the urban landscape actually extends headwater streams in a pervasive three-dimensional incision of the urban landscape. These "new" upland streams, as well as their associated hyporheic and parafluvial compartments, are engineered streams with hydro-ecological functions in important ways, and have important implications for downstream ecological systems. By considering these complex systems worthy of study in their own right, we will be better prepared to put urban hydrology into a context that allows for greater eco-hydrological synthesis as well as the cascading effects on more traditional downstream continuums. Importantly, this perspective also promises to set the stage for a truer integration of the "land-water" interface concept with ecologically based modeling and management efforts, improving the potential for the remediation of detrimental behaviors and infrastructure on downstream systems. We will discuss upstream-downstream patterns in stream data from Baltimore that support this idea of an ultra connected aquatic-terrestrial interface and how urban headwater effects can reach far downstream, likely with more intensely in the future as population densities increase and civil infrastructure ages.