A river on trial: Assessing stream health in an agro-urban landscape
Streams and rivers provide many ecosystem services to humans, including water filtration, flood protection, and recreation among other benefits. In the agricultural Midwest, the impact of human land-use can degrade these freshwater ecosystems and limit their ability to deliver the same degree of services as streams flowing through watersheds with more natural land-use, such as prairies or forests. The Raccoon River is a socially and economically important river in Central Iowa. However, the high nitrate loads led the Des Moines Water Works to bring a lawsuit against upstream drainage districts over the river's water quality. My recent research has explored the variation in nitrate export and loss within the Raccoon River across space and through time. In addition, we have investigated the ecological value of land conservation as reflected by stream ecosystem function. Together, these studies seek to inform the management of river and streams in human-dominated landscapes.
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