Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 409–435

The urban watershed continuum: evolving spatial and temporal dimensions

Article

Abstract

Urban ecosystems are constantly evolving, and they are expected to change in both space and time with active management or degradation. An urban watershed continuum framework recognizes a continuum of engineered and natural hydrologic flowpaths that expands hydrologic networks in ways that are seldom considered. It recognizes that the nature of hydrologic connectivity influences downstream fluxes and transformations of carbon, contaminants, energy, and nutrients across 4 space and time dimensions. Specifically, it proposes that (1) first order streams are largely replaced by urban infrastructure (e.g. storm drains, ditches, gutters, pipes) longitudinally and laterally within watersheds, (2) there is extensive longitudinal and lateral modification of organic carbon and nutrient retention in engineered headwaters (3) there are longitudinal downstream pulses in material and energy exports that are amplified by interactive land-use and hydrologic variability, (4) there are vertical interactions between leaky pipes and ground water that influence stream solute transport, (5) the urban watershed continuum is a transformer and transporter of materials and energy based on hydrologic residence times, and (6) temporally, there is an evolution of biogeochemical cycles and ecosystem functions as land use and urban infrastructure change over time. We provide examples from the Baltimore Ecosystem Study Long-Term Ecological (LTER) site along 4 spatiotemporal dimensions. Long-term monitoring indicates that engineered headwaters increase downstream subsidies of nitrate, phosphate, sulfate, carbon, and metals compared with undeveloped headwaters. There are increased longitudinal transformations of carbon and nitrogen from suburban headwaters to more urbanized receiving waters. Hydrologic connectivity along the vertical dimension between ground water and leaky pipes from Baltimore’s aging infrastructure elevates stream solute concentrations. Across time, there has been increased headwater stream burial, evolving stormwater management, and long-term salinization of Baltimore’s drinking water supply. Overall, an urban watershed continuum framework proposes testable hypotheses of how transport/transformation of materials and energy vary along a continuum of engineered and natural hydrologic flowpaths in space and time. Given interest in transitioning from sanitary to sustainable cities, it is necessary to recognize the evolving relationship between infrastructure and ecosystem function along the urban watershed continuum.

Keywords

Land use change Sanitary city Urban sustainability Organic carbon Nitrogen Phosphorus Copper Lead Zinc Road salt Emerging contaminants Stream restoration Stormwater management Aging infrastructure 

References

  1. Alberti M (2005) The effects of urban patterns on ecosystem function. International Regional Science Review 28:168–192CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bain DJ, Pouyat RV, Yesilonis ID (2011) Metal concentrations in urban riparian sediments along an urbanization gradient. Biogeochemistry. doi:10.1007/s10533-010-9532-4
  3. Baker LA, Hope D, Xu Y, Edmonds J, Lauver L (2001) Nitrogen balance for the central Arizona–Phoenix (CAP) ecosystem. Ecosystems 4:582–602CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Clark SE, Steele KA, Spicher J, Siu CYS, Lalor MM, Pitt R, Kirby JT (2008) Roofing materials’ contributions to storm-water runoff pollution. J Irrigat Drain Eng-ASCE 134:638–645CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Collins SL, Carpenter SR, Swinton SM, Orenstein DE, Childers DL, Gragson TL, Grimm NB, Grove M, Harlan SL, Kaye JP, Knapp AK, Kofinas GP, Magnuson JJ, McDowell WH, Melack JM, Ogden LA, Robertson GP, Smith MD, Whitmer AC (2011) An integrated conceptual framework for long-term social-ecological research. Front Ecol Environ 9:351–357CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Delaney KM (2009) Organic nitrogen and carbon transformations in a stream network of Chesapeake Bay watershed. M.S. Thesis. University of Maryland, College ParkGoogle Scholar
  7. Doyle MW, Stanley EH, Havlick DG, Kaiser MJ, Steinbach G, Graf WL, Galloway GE, Riggsbee JA (2008) Environmental science—Aging infrastructure and ecosystem restoration. Science 319:286–287PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dunne T, Black RD (1970) Partial area contributions to storm runoff in a small New England watershed. Water Resour Res 6:1296–1311. doi:10.1029/WR006i005p01296 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ellis JB, Bertrand-Krajewski JL (2010) Assessing infiltration and exfiltration on the Performance of Urban Sewer Systems (APUSS). IWA, LondonGoogle Scholar
  10. Elmore AJ, Kaushal SS (2008) Disappearing headwaters: patterns of stream burial due to urbanization. Front Ecol Environ 6:308–312CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Finlay JC (2011) Stream size and human influences on ecosystem production in river networks. Ecosphere 2(8):srt87. doi:10.1890/ES11-00071.1 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Fisher SG, Likens GE (1973) Energy flow in Bear Brook, New Hampshire—Integrative approach to stream ecosystem metabolism. Ecol Monogr 43:421–439CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fisher SG, Grimm NB, Marti E, Holmes RM, Jones JB (1998) Material spiraling in stream corridors: a telescoping ecosystem model. Ecosystems 19–34.Google Scholar
  14. Federal Leadership Committee for the Chesapeake Bay (2009) Executive Order 13508, Draft strategy for protecting and restoring the Chesapeake bayGoogle Scholar
  15. Foley JA, DeFries R, Asner GP, Barford C, Bonan G, Carpenter SR, Chapin FS, Coe MT, Daily GC, Gibbs HK, Helkowski JH, Holloway T, Howard EA, Kucharik CJ, Monfreda C, Patz JA, Prentice IC, Ramankutty N, Snyder PK (2005) Global consequences of land use. Science 309:570–574PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Garcia-Fresca (2007) Urban-enhanced groudnwater recharge: review and case study of Austin, Texas, USA. Urban groundwater—meeting the challenge, Selected papers from the 32nd International Geological Congress (IGC), Florence, Italy, August 2004. Howard KW (ed). Taylor & Francis/Balkema, Netherlands, pp. 3–18.Google Scholar
  17. Gomi T, Sidle RC, Richardson JS (2002) Understanding processes and downstream linkages of headwater systems. Bioscience 52:905–916CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gregory SV, Swanson FJ, McKee WA, Cummins KW (1991) An ecosystem perspective of riparian zones. Bioscience 41:540–551CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Grimm NB, Faeth SH, Golubiewski NE, Redman CL, Wu JG, Bai XM, Briggs JM (2008) Global change and the ecology of cities. Science 319:756–760PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Groffman PM, Boulware NJ, Zipperer WC, Pouyat RV, Band LE, Colosimo MF (2002) Soil nitrogen cycle processes in urban riparian zones. Environ Sci Technol 36:4547–4552PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Groffman PM, Law NL, Belt KT, Band LE, Fisher GT (2004) Nitrogen fluxes and retention in urban watershed ecosystems. Ecosystems 7:393–403Google Scholar
  22. Groffman PM. Long-term Stream Water Chemistry (2010) Baltimore Ecosystem Study LTER Site, Maryland. Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies. www.beslter.org.
  23. Hynes HBN (1970) The ecology of running waters. University Press, LiverpoolGoogle Scholar
  24. Jones JB, Mulholland PJ (2000) Streams and ground waters. Academic, San Diego, p 425Google Scholar
  25. Junk WJ, Bayley PB, Sparks RE (1989) The flood pulse concept in river-floodplain systems. In: Dodge DP (ed) Proceedings of the International Large River Symposium. Can. Spec. Publs. Fish. Aquat. Sci. 106, pp. 110–127.Google Scholar
  26. Kaushal SS, Groffman PM, Likens GE, Belt KT, Stack WP, Kelly VR, Band LE, Fisher GT (2005) Increased salinization of fresh water in the northeastern U.S. Proc Natl Acad Sci 102:13517–13520PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kaushal SS, Lewis WM Jr, McCutchan JH Jr (2006) Land use change and nitrogen enrichment of a Rocky Mountain watershed. Ecol Appl 16:299–312PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kaushal SS, Groffman PM, Band LE, Shields CA, Morgan RP, Palmer MA, Belt KT, Fisher GT, Swan CM, Findlay SEG (2008a) Interaction between urbanization and climate variability amplifies watershed nitrate export in Maryland. Environ Sci Tech 42:5872–5878. doi:10.1021/es800264f CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kaushal SS, Groffman PM, Mayer PM, Striz E, Doheny EJ, Gold AJ (2008b) Effects of stream restoration on denitrification in an urbanizing watershed. Ecol Appl 18:789–804PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Kaushal SS, Likens GE, Jaworski NA, Pace ML, Sides AM, Belt KT, Secor D, Seekell D, Wingate R (2010) Rising stream and river temperatures in the United States. Front Ecol Environ 100323112848094. doi:10.1890/090037
  31. Kaushal SS, Groffman PM, Band LE, Elliott E, Kendall CA (2011) Tracking nonpoint nitrogen pollution in human-impacted watersheds. Environ Sci Technol. doi:10.1021/es200779e
  32. Kaye JP, Groffman PM, Grimm NB, Baker LA, Pouyat RV (2006) A distinct urban biogeochemistry? Trends Ecol Evol 21:192–199PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kelly VR, Lovett GM, Weathers KC, Findlay SEG, Strayer DL, Burns DJ, Likens GE (2008) Long-term sodium chloride retention in a rural watershed: legacy effects of road salt on streamater concentration. Environ Sci Technol 42:410–415PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kelly WR, Panno SV, Hackley KC, Hwang HH, Martinsek AT, Markus M (2010) Using chloride and other ions to trace sewage and road salt in the Illinois Waterway. Appl Geochem 25:661–673CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Leopold LB, Huppman R, Miller A (2005) Geomorphic effects of urbanization in forty-one years of observation. Proc Am Philos Soc 149:349–371Google Scholar
  36. Likens GE (2001) Biogeochemistry, the watershed approach: some uses and limitations. Mar Freshw Res 52:5–12CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lookingbill TR, Kaushal SS, Elmore AJ, Gardner R, Eshleman KN, Hilderbrand RH, Morgan RP, Boynton WR, Palmer MA, Dennison WC (2009) Altered ecological flows blur boundaries in urbanizing watersheds. Ecol Soc 14.Google Scholar
  38. Mallin MA, Johnson VL, Ensign SH, MacPherson TA (2006) Factors contributing to hypoxia in rivers, lakes, and streams. Limnol Oceanogr 51:690–701CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mayer PM, Groffman PM, Striz EA, Kaushal SS (2010) Nitrogen dynamics at the groundwater-surface water interface of a degraded urban stream. J Environ Qual 39:810–823PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. McDonnell MJ, Pickett STA (1990) Ecosystem structure and function along urban rural gradients—an unexpoited opportunity for ecology. Ecology 71:1232–1237CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Melosi MV (2000) The sanitary city: urban infrastructure in America from colonial times to the present. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore. ISBN 978-0-8018-6152-9Google Scholar
  42. Meyer JL, Paul MJ, Taulbee WK (2005) Stream ecosystem function in urbanizing landscapes. J N Am Benthol Soc 24:602–612Google Scholar
  43. Minshall GW, Petersen RC, Cummins KW, Bott TL, Sedell JR, Cushing CE, Vannote RL (1983) Interbiome comparison of stream ecosystem dynamics. Ecol Monogr 53:2–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Naiman RJ, Melillo JM, Lock MA, Ford TE, Reice SR (1987) Longitudinal patterns of ecosystem processes and community structure in a subarctic river continuum. Ecology 68:1139–1156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Nilsson C, Pizzuto JE, Moglen GE, Palmer MA, Stanley EH, Bockstael NE, Thompson LC (2003) Ecological forecasting and the urbanization of stream ecosystems: challenges for economists, hydrologists, geomorphologists, and ecologists. Ecosystems 6:659–674CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Paul MJ, Meyer JL (2001) Streams in the urban landscape. Annu Rev Ecol Systemat 32:333–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Pickett STA, Cadanasso ML, Grove JM, Band LE, Boone CG, Irwin E, Groffman PM, Kaushal SS, Marshall V, McGrath B, Nilon CH, Pouyat RV, Szlavecz K, Troy A, Warren P (2011a) Urban ecological systems: foundations and a decade of progress. J Environ Manage 92:331–362PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Pickett STA, Buckley GL, Kaushal SS, Williams Y (2011b) Ecological science in the humane metropolis. Urban Ecosyst. doi:10.1007/s11252-011-0166-7
  49. Pouyat RV, Pataki D, Belt K, Groffman PM, Hom J, Band L (2007) Urban land-use change effects on biogeochemical cycles. In: Canadell P, Pataki D, Pitelka L (eds) Terrestrial ecosystems in a changing world. Springer, Berlin Heidelberg-New York, pp 45–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Pouyat RV, Yesilonis ID, Golubiewski NE (2009) A comparison of soil organic carbon stocks between residential turf grass and native soil. Urban Ecosyst 12:45–62Google Scholar
  51. Pouyat RV, Szlavecz K, Yesilonis ID, Groffman PM, Schwarz K (2010) Chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of urban soils. Chapter 7. In: Aitkenhead-Peterson J, Volder A (eds) Urban ecosystem ecology. Agronomy Monograph 55. American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, Soil Science Society of America, Madison, pp 119–152Google Scholar
  52. Rose S (2007) The effects of urbanization on the hydrochemistry of base flow within the Chattahoochee River Basin (Georgia, USA). J Hydrol 341:42–54CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Roy AH, Dybas AL, Fritz KM, Lubbers HR (2009) Urbanization affects the extent and hydrologic permanence of headwater streams in a Midwestern US metropolitan area. J N Am Benthol Soc 28:911–928CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sansalone JJ, Kim JY (2008) Transport of particulate matter fractions in urban source area pavement surface runoff. J Environ Qual 37:1883–1893PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Schueler TR, Fraley-McNeal L, Cappiella K (2009) Is impervious cover still important? Review of recent research. J Hydrolog Eng 14:309–315CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sharp JM Jr, Krothe JN, Mather JD, Garcia-Fresca B, Stewart CA (2003) Effects of urbanization on groundwater systems. In: Heiken G, Fakundiny R, Sutter J (eds) Earth science in the city: a reader. American Geophysical Union, Washington, pp 257–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Sivirichi G, Kaushal SS, Mayer PM, Welty C, Belt KT, Delaney KA, Newcomer TA, Grese M (2011) Longitudinal variability in streamwater chemistry and carbon and nitrogen fluxes in restored and unrestored stream networks. J Environ Monit. doi:10.1039/c0em00055h
  58. Stanford JA (1998) Rivers in the landscape: introduction to the special issue on riparian and groundwater ecology. Freshwat Biol 40:402–406CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Stanford JA, Ward JV (1993) An ecosystem perspective of alluvial rivers—connectivity and the hyporheic corridor. J N Am Benthol Soc 12:48CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sterner RW, Andersen T, Elser JJ, Hessen DO, Hood JM, McCauley E, Urabe J (2008) Scale-dependent carbon:nitrogen:phosphorus seston stoichiometry in marine and freshwaters. Limnol Oceanogr 53:1169–1180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. United Nations World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP) (2010) Water for sustainable urban human settlements. Briefing note. United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT)Google Scholar
  62. Vannote RL, Minshall GW, Cummins KW, Sedell JR, Cushing CE (1980) River continuum concept. Can J Fish Aquat Sci 37:130–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Viessman W, Hammer MJ (1998) Water supply and pollution control. Addison Wesley, Menlo ParkGoogle Scholar
  64. Walsh CJ, Roy AH, Feminella JW, Cottingham PD, Groffman PM, Morgan RP (2005a) The urban stream syndrome: current knowledge and the search for a cure. J N Am Benthol Soc 24:706–723Google Scholar
  65. Walsh CJ, Fletcher TD, Ladson AR (2005b) Stream restoration in urban catchments through redesigning stormwater systems: looking to the catchment to save the stream. J N Am Benthol Soc 24:690–705Google Scholar
  66. Ward JV (1989) The four-dimensional nature of lotic ecosystems. J N Am Benthol Soc 8:2–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Ward JV, Stanford JA (1995) The serial discontinuity concept—extending the model to floodplain rivers. Regul Rivers: Res Manage 10:159–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Warren PS, Ryan RL, Lerman SB, Tooke KA (2011) Social and institutional factors associated with land use and forest conservation along two urban gradients in Massachusetts. Landsc Urban Plann 102:82–92CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Welty C, Miller AJ, Belt K, Smith J, Band L, Groffman P, Scanlon T, Warner J, Ryan RJ, Shedlock R, McGuire M (2007) Design of an environmental field observatory for quantifying the urban water budget. In: Novotny V, Brown P (eds) Cities of the future towards integrated sustanable water and landscape management. IWA Publishing, London, pp 74–91Google Scholar
  70. Wenger SJ, Roy AH, Jackson CR, Bernhardt ES, Carter TL, Filoso S, Gibson CA, Hession WC, Kaushal SS, Marti E, Meyer JL, Palmer MA, Paul MJ, Purcell AH, Ramirez A, Rosemond AD, Schofield KA, Sudduth EB, Walsh CJ (2009a) Twenty-six key research questions in urban stream ecology: an assessment of the state of the science. J N Am Benthol Soc 28:1080–1098CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Wenger SJ, Roy AH, Jackson CR, Bernhardt ES, Carter TL, Filoso S, Gibson CA, Grimm NB, Hession WC, Kaushal SS, Martí E, Meyer JL, Palmer MA, Paul MJ, Purcell AH, Ramirez A, Rosemond AD, Schofield KA, Schueler TR, Sudduth E, Walsh CJ (2009b) Top urban stream ecology research questions: what we know, what we don’t know, and what we need to know to better manage urban streams. J N Am Benthol Soc 28:1080–1098Google Scholar
  72. Wollheim WM, Pellerin BA, Vorosmarty CJ, Hopkinson CS (2005) N retention in urbanizing headwater catchments. Ecosystems 8:871–884CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geology & Earth System Science Interdisciplinary CenterUniversity of Maryland, College ParkCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.USDA Forest Service, Northern Research StationBaltimore Field Station at University of Maryland Baltimore CountyBaltimoreUSA

Personalised recommendations