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    Author(s): C. Rhett Jackson; Robert A. Bahn; Jackson R. Webster
    Date: 2017
    Source: Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA)
    Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)
    Station: Southern Research Station
    PDF: Download Publication  (737.0 KB)


    In mountainous landscapes with high climatic and geomorphic variability, how do rural land uses and exurbanization alter hydrology and water quality? We evaluated effects of rural land use and exurbanization on streamflows, suspended sediment concentrations and loads, specific conductance, and summer water temperatures in 12 streams and rivers within the Upper Little Tennessee River basin in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Eleven streams featured low levels of development (>61% forest cover) but differed in land use patterning, basin size, annual precipitation, and watershed morphology. One urban stream, located within the largest town in the basin, provided the high development comparative endpoint. Even low levels of rural development and exurbanization were associated with substantial increases in suspended sediment concentrations, sediment loads, and summer stream temperature daily maxima and diurnal variation. Observed summer temperature increases were much larger than would be expected due to global climate change over the next century. Specific conductance was idiosyncratic among the smaller streams. These water quality changes were not accompanied by streamflow changes that were discernible amid the high natural variation in precipitation and geomorphology. The water quality findings suggest the need for applying the best management practices, including riparian buffers, to even low levels of rural development.

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    Jackson, C. Rhett; Bahn, Robert A.; Webster, Jackson R. 2017. Water quality signals from rural land use and exurbanization in a mountain landscape: What’s clear and what’s confounded . Journal of the American Water Resources Association. 17 p.


    urbanization, water quality, sediment transport, temperature, hydrology, best management practices

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