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Land cover along an urban-rural gradient: implications for water quality

Developtlicnt pressures in rural mountainous areas of the United States hold crucial implications for water quality. Especially important arc changes in the extent and pattern of various land uses. We cxamille how position along an urban-rural gradient affects landscape pattcrns in a southern Appalachian watershed, first by testing for the effect of distance from an urban center on land-cover change probabilities and then simulating the implied development of a landscape at regular distance intcrvals. By simulating a common hypothetical landscape we control for variable landscape conditions and define how land development might proceed in the hture. Results indicate that position along thc urban-rural gradient has a significant effect on land-cover changes on private lands but not on public lands. Furthermore, position along the gradient has a compounding effcct on laridcover changes through interactions with other variables such as slope. Simulation results indicate that these differences in land-cover changes would give rise to uniquc "landscape signatures" along the urban-rural gradient. By examining a development sequence, we identify patterns of change that may be most significant for water quality. Two locations along the urban-rural gradient may hold disproportionate influence over water quality in the future: ( 1 ) at the most remote portion of the landscape and (2) at the outer envelope of urban expansion. These findings demonstrate how landscape simulation approaches can be used to identify where and how land use decisions may have critical influence over environniental quality, thereby focusing both future research and monitoring efforts and watershed protection measures.


Wear, David N.
Turner, Monica G.
Naiman, Robert J.

Miscellaneous Publication

Ecological Applications 8(3): 619-630

Wear, David N.; Turner, Monica G.; Naiman, Robert J. 1998. Land cover along an urban-rural gradient: implications for water quality. Ecological Applications 8(3): 619-630

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