Gulf Guardian Award Winners 2003
Civic/Nonprofit Organization - 3rd Place
|Company:||Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn, AL|
|Project Name:||Sustainability of Natural Resources Across the Urban-Rural Interface: An Integrated Approach|
|Category:||Youth/Education or Civic/Nonprofit Organization|
|Project Type:||Nutrient Enrichment|
Our project was initiated in 2000 in response to threats posed to water
quality, forest land, and other natural resources by very high rates of
land development in the southeastern United States. The study is situated
within the basin of the Chattahoochee River, an input source to the Gulf
of Mexico through the Florida Panhandle and uses a creative approach to
link the economic drivers of development to water quality impacts. Approximately
30 Auburn University faculty and students are involved along with participants
from Oregon State University, the US Forest Service, the city of Columbus,
GA, and several citizens groups.
In coming decades, rising human populations and concurrent land development in the southeastern United States will represent the foremost threats to water quality and other natural resources there. In particular, rates of land development along the Gulf Coast and within many of the river basins that drain into the Gulf of Mexico are among the highest reported in the United States. Consequently, it is critical that we become able to predict effects of land development on water quality so that future trends for inputs to the Gulf of Mexico can be anticipated. To that end, the present study was designed to develop models that link the economic factors that drive development with its environmental ramifications. Specifically, the models will allow water quality to be estimated at future points in time based on anticipated land use changes that are, in turn, predicted from future socioeconomic scenarios.
Due to the complexity of urban development issues, it is critical to utilize comprehensive approaches such as that of the present study so that relationships between the socioeconomic causes and environmental effects of land development can be simultaneously assessed. In this way, environmental studies can be made much more relevant in terms of real-world application. However, the use of comprehensive, highly interdisciplinary approaches is not common in environmental studies and, thus, the application of such an approach here represents creativity and innovation in study design. As a result, study results will make a more relevant contribution toward our understanding of relationships between regional development trends and future inputs to the Gulf of Mexico.