Watershed Research at SERC
Throughout the world human activities have increased discharges of sediments and plant nutrients from watersheds contributing to pollution of lakes, estuaries, and coastal ecosystems.
SERC has been at the forefront of watershed research for many years. Using the Rhode River estuary and its watershed as model ecosystems, SERC scientists study the linkages between the land and the sea. Beginning in the early 1970s, SERC has monitored discharges from watersheds of the Rhode River, changes in the chemistry of rain and snow, and responding changes in water quality and biota in the Rhode River estuary. These studies are among the longest running of their kind. The exceptionally long-term data have shown how changes on the land and in the atmosphere affect the estuary.
In the 1990's SERC expanded the focus of its watershed research to encompass the entire drainage basin of our nation's largest estuary, Chesapeake Bay. The Chesapeake basin includes land from 5 states (VA, MD, WV, PA, DE) and the District of Columbia. SERC has measured of discharges from hundreds of watersheds throughout the Chesapeake basin revealing effects of agricultural and urban land uses and geological differences. Using these results, SERC has built models to predict the effects of land use changes on watershed discharges. New SERC studies investigate how watershed discharges are affected by the spatial patterns in landscapes.
Click here for more information on recent research on watersheds in collaboration with the SERC's Ecological Modeling Lab