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E&S Home > Vol. 14, Iss. 2 > Art. 10 > Abstract Open Access Publishing 
Altered Ecological Flows Blur Boundaries in Urbanizing Watersheds

Todd R Lookingbill, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Sujay S Kaushal, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Andrew J Elmore, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Robert Gardner, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Keith N Eshleman, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Robert H Hilderbrand, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Raymond P Morgan, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Walter R Boynton, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Margaret A Palmer, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
William C Dennison, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

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Abstract

The relevance of the boundary concept to ecological processes has been recently questioned. Humans in the post-industrial era have created novel lateral transport fluxes that have not been sufficiently considered in watershed studies. We describe patterns of land-use change within the Potomac River basin and demonstrate how these changes have blurred traditional ecosystem boundaries by increasing the movement of people, materials, and energy into and within the basin. We argue that this expansion of ecological commerce requires new science, monitoring, and management strategies focused on large rivers and suggest that traditional geopolitical and economic boundaries for environmental decision making be appropriately revised. Effective mitigation of the consequences of blurred boundaries will benefit from a broad-scale, interdisciplinary framework that can track and explicitly account for ecological fluxes of water, energy, materials, and organisms across human-dominated landscapes.

Key words

catchment ecology; Chesapeake Bay; interdisciplinary science; large river; Potomac River; restoration; urban metabolism
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087