Integrating monitoring and modeling information to develop an indicator of watershed progress toward nutrient reduction goals (Page 1)  
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Integrating monitoring and modeling information to develop an indicator of watershed progress toward nutrient reduction goals

Eutrophication has been a major environmental issue in many coastal and inland ecosystems, which is primarily attributed to excessive anthropogenic inputs of nutrients. Restoration efforts have therefore focused on the reduction of watershed nutrient loads, including in the Chesapeake Bay (USA). To facilitate watershed management, watershed models are often developed and used to assess the expected impact of scenarios of past and future management policies and practices and the impact of watershed conditions. However, the level of load reductions estimated using monitoring data often does not match with model predictions, which may cast doubt on the effectiveness of the restoration efforts, the reliability of the model, and the prospect of achieving pre-established reduction goals. To better reconcile such inconsistencies between expectation (i.e., modeling estimates) and reality (i.e., monitoring information), a watershed-wide indicator was developed for the Chesapeake Bay watershed to explicitly quantify the progress toward nutrient reduction goals in the context of the Chesapeake Bay Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL). Results of the indicator show that since 1995 long-term progress has been made toward the TMDL planning targets for both nitrogen and phosphorus. Specifically, management practices that are implemented and realized (in monitoring data) have been increasing over time, whereas management practices that need to be implemented in the future to meet the goals have been decreasing. In addition, the progress of nutrient reduction toward meeting the goals has varied with source sectors and watershed locations: i.e., point source management has been fully or nearly fully implemented, whereas nonpoint source management has been implemented by 50%-70%. In summary, this indicator, which is largely based on monitoring data, can provide at least four benefits: (1) evaluating the validity of the modeled estimates of nutrient reductions by comparing them to monitoring information; (2) placing the monitored riverine trends into a management context; (3) comparing progress between different nutrient source sectors and watershed locations; and (4) facilitating communication of the progress to the Chesapeake Bay Program Partnership and the public. Although we focus on the indicator development and interpretation for the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the framework can be transferred to watersheds within and beyond this watershed, where similar modeling and monitoring information exists, to gauge expectations on the trajectory and pace of the progress toward meeting restoration goals.

Keywords: Water quality, Watershed model, Long-term monitoring, Nutrient management, Watershed restoration, TMDL

Author(s)Zhang Q, Shenk GW, Bhatt G, Bertani I
IAN Author(s)Qian Zhang, Isabella Bertani
Journal / BookEcological Indicators 158: 111357
TypePaper | Journal Article
ProjectDevelopment of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL Indicator
Location(s)Chesapeake Bay
Number of Pages13