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Research In Action

Properly Functioning Condition of Ecosystems
Tribal-Focused Exposure and Risk Screening Tool Project (T-FERST)



A holistic understanding of the key chemical and physical indicators that in combination will most rapidly and accurately predict changes in ecological sensitive watersheds is emerging as a critical factor in effectively managing our shared natural resources.


This study is about the overall health of a system of regional streams in Northern Nevada and provides a path for developing an interactive blueprint for implementing scientifically and economically sound regional management practices and restoration efforts.

The information compiled — recent chemical and physical measurements, historical data, and related geological and landscape information — was collected from the Humboldt Basin Regional Drainage System over a period of several years.  This environmentally important drainage basin covers more than 17,000 square miles in Northern Nevada and contains approximately 1,000 miles of stream channels and corridors (riparian zones).  Past and current uses of the fragile water resources in this area include ranching, farming, mining, and recreation.  

An illustrative case study is presented from an area showing steadily improving water quality, Maggie Creek, NV.  Our analysis of this component of the regional system is used to both demonstrate how this type of data can be utilized to track and guide the recovery of complex systems and also, somewhat paradoxically, highlights the limitations of the current datasets for analyzing long-term trends.

Result and Impact

The goal of this research is to continue to integrate the historical and current data sets and use that knowledge base to recommend a focused set of new regional data needs.  These can then be immediately used to effectively track the most pressing changes that will have a positive impact on water quality.  This type of comprehensive approach necessarily requires a careful balancing of sample collection efforts, analytical costs, and data reduction requirements to create the most representative, high value, information possible for land-use planners, public stakeholders, and other researchers. 


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