The West Virginia University (WVU) Institute of Water Security and Science (IWSS) in partnership with researchers from the WVU Division of Forestry and Natural Resources and Division of Plant and Soil Sciences was awarded a Pilot Study Grant by the Davis College of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Design to determine the impacts of land use types and practices on hydro-biogeochemical relationships in a contemporary mixed-land-use watershed in Appalachia.
The pilot study will be conducted in the West Run Watershed, one of the most rapidly developing areas of Monongalia County. The home to shopping centers, apartment complexes, and a regional airport, the West Run Watershed also includes agricultural, industrial and mining land use, as well as major road construction and other development projects, all of which have likely contributed to land and water degradation, and increased flood hazards, within the watershed.
“It is likely that urban expansion is contributing to increasing flood hazard within the watershed,” said Jason Hubbart, Director of the IWSS. “Perhaps more importantly, the observed flow changes suggest regional alteration of the hydrologic regime, which can be expected to impact the physical function, water chemistry and ecological condition of aquatic and floodplain ecosystems.
“Microorganisms respond to water chemistry through changes in both activity and community composition with a sensitivity that makes them uniquely informative biological indicators of water quality,” Hubbart added. “The pilot study grant provides seed funding for a complex, multi-disciplinary study that will use microorganisms as biological indicators to determine the impacts of land use and associated hydrologic regime alterations on water quality and ecosystem integrity within the West Run Watershed.
The study will build upon the University’s existing research and education efforts in the West Run Watershed and will leverage the state’s 2015 National Science Foundation (NSF) Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) project (NSF Award Number 1458952) as part of the Appalachian Freshwater Initiative's work to inform streamflow regime analyses and to properly contextualize microbial community analysis results.
Co-investigators in the pilot study include Dr. Zachary Freedman, Assistant Professor of Environmental Microbiology; ; Dr. Jason Hubbart, Director of the IWSS and Professor of Hydrology and Water Quality; Dr. Elliott Kellner, Research Scientist for the IWSS; Dr. Charley Kelly, Visiting Assistant Professor of Forest Resources Management; Dr. Ember Morrisey, Assistant Professor of Environmental Microbiology; and Dr. Kirsten Stephan, Visiting Associate Professor of Forest Resources Management. The team is already developing a full proposal for a watershed-scale project and will publish results of the study.
The Appalachian Freshwater Initiative is supported by the National Science Foundation under Award Number 1458952. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author/researcher(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.