Virginia Tech biology researchers have applied tools from geology, geography, and hydrologic modeling to determine the effect of different land uses on stream quality across 10 watersheds of the French Broad River in the North Carolina mountains. The result is a new protocol for determining the health or condition of huge land-water systems. The research has also resulted in a set of tools for predicting the effect of development decisions in the watersheds studied, which are near Ashville, N.C.
Biology professor Maury Valett, recent doctoral graduate Chris Burcher, and biology professor Fred Benfield will present their research at the Geological Sciences of America national meeting in Salt Lake City Oct. 16-19.
Valett and Burcher use the "domino effect" as an analogy to describe their research process. "When you knock down a string of dominos, the first one is the stimulus and the last one to fall is the response," said Valett. "We are looking at all the important entities in between." The stimuli include such land uses as parking lots, farms, and urban development. The entities are components of stream – land ecosystems.
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