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Historical Land Use Changes and Their Impacts on Nonpoint Loads from Watersheds Draining the Ozark Highlands

Authors: Tyler Pursley*, Missouri State University, Robert T Pavlowsky, Missouri State University
Topics: Geomorphology
Keywords: Missouri Ozarks, STEPL, land use, land use change, nonpoint pollution
Session Type: Poster
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Many of the environmental problems facing communities today stem from past, as well as present, land use disturbances such as agriculture, urbanization, and resource extraction. It is important to recognize the relationships between historical human activities and their effects on nonpoint source (NPS) pollution in order to fully understand land use-water quality relationships and their past, present, and future. The Ozarks region has undergone significant phases of land use change throughout its settlement history and is actively developing today (2020). To date, no comprehensive analysis of the environmental history of land use and water quality among different physiographic, soil, land use, and changing climate characteristics of this area has been reported. This study uses water quality conditions predicted by the USEPA’s STEPL model to evaluate human impacts on different landscapes across the Missouri Ozarks during three time periods: pre-settlement (prior to 1820), peak land disturbance (typically between 1880 and 1910), and present day (2010-20). Twelve watersheds of similar size were selected among three present land uses: urban, forest, and agriculture, and locations within three physiographic regions of the Ozark Plateaus including the Springfield Plateau, Salem Plateau and St. Francois Mountains. Historical records and modern databases describing settlement, land use history and landscape characteristics are used to develop and conduct modelling for each location. Results will provide insight into historical water quality relationships of the study area, as well as context to present conservation and management plans.

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