State Water Resources Research Institute Program


Project ID: 2012IN342B
Title: Connectivity & Functioning of Wetlandscapes: A Complex Network Modeling Analysis
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/28/2012
End Date: 2/ 1/2013
Congressional District: IN-004
Focus Categories: Wetlands
Keywords: Wetlands in Landscapes; Eco-hydrology; Complex Networks, Connectivity;
Principal Investigator: Rao, Suresh
Federal Funds: $ 15,000
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 30,000
Abstract: Wetlands are a major ecosystem "hub" for coupled hydrologic, biogeochemical, and ecological cycles. They play a significant role as a critical regulator and integrator of landscape changes at local, regional, and global scales. With their position at the interface between terrestrial and aquatic systems, wetlands are vulnerable first-responders that serve as a sentinel ecosystem for early detection of responses to global and regional change. Indiana has about 800,000 acres of wetlands, of which ~62% are in forested landscapes. Maintaining the integrity and functioning of these wetlands is critical for the resilience of both aquatic and terrestrial habitats and provision of various ecological services. It is important to evaluate how the integrity and functioning of these wetlands is impacted by the temporal and spatial fluctuations in the natural and anthropogenic forcing.

We propose to develop a parsimonious, stochastic, complex network model to describe wetland dynamics under multiple external forcing (hydro-climatic; anthropogenic, etc.). The structure and function as well as the resilience of the wetlands then depends on how network topology enables attenuation of external disturbances, and controls propagation of water, nutrients, and organisms. Species dispersal among wetlands across a landscape is determined by wetland connectivity, which can shift over time and space as the landscape undergoes a series of hydrological fluctuations under anthropogenic and hydro-climatic forcing. Our model simulations for Midwestern wetland landscapes will help understand changes in wetland integrity functionalities with a variety of hypothetical LULC and Climate Change scenarios.

The network model and the educational material will be useful for decision-makers managing natural resources, and for education-outreach uses. Funds requested will support a ESE-IGP graduate student involved in the project. Undergraduate students (supported by other funds) will benefit from working with the grad student, the post-doc, other grad students in the group, and with faculty member

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