Applying Ecological Principles to Land-Use Decision Making in Agricultural Watersheds

  • Mary Santelmann
  • Kathryn Freemark
  • Denis White
  • Joan Nassauer
  • Mark Clark
  • Brent Danielson
  • Joseph Eilers
  • Richard M. Cruse
  • Susan Galatowitsch
  • Stephen Polasky
  • Kellie Vache
  • Junjie Wu


The use of ecological principles and guidelines in land-use planning, as advocated by the Ecological Society of America Committee on Land Use (Dale et al., Chapter 1) will be critically important to achieving sustainable ecosystems in the next few decades as the world’s human population continues to grow and land area under human management increases. Definition of these principles and articulation of guidelines for use by planners and decision makers is an important first step, but there are many obstacles to the application of ecological guidelines in the land-use planning process. The use of alternative future scenarios can help overcome some of the difficulties associated with application of ecologically healthy land-use practices in agricultural watersheds. With the future scenario approach, abstract goals such as enhancing water quality and restoring biological diversity are translated into specific land-use practices (wetland restoration, riparian buffers, alternative cropping practices, preserves) expected to help achieve these goals. Maps and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) databases of the future alternatives become the spatial data used to evaluate the responses of the various modeled endpoints as well as the response of human perceptions of changes in land use. Alternative futures can be used to frame landscape ecological hypotheses (cf. Ahern 1999); models can then be employed to test those hypotheses and focus additional research on components that are poorly understood.


Geographic Information System Wetland Restoration Conservation Reserve Program Agricultural Watershed Corn Belt 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ahern, J. 1999. Spatial concepts, planning strategies and future scenarios: a framework method for integrating landscape ecology and landscape planning. In J.M. Klopatek and R.H. Gardner, editors. Landscape ecological analysis: issues and applications. Springer-Verlag, New York, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  2. Alexander, R.B., R. Smith, and G. Schwartz. 1996. The regional transport of point and nonpoint-source nitrogen to the Gulf of Mexico. In Proceedings of the Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Management Conference, 5–6 December, 1995, Kenner, Louisiana. U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia, USA.Google Scholar
  3. Anselin, A., P.M. Meire, and L. Anselin. 1989. Multicriteria techniques in ecological evaluation: an example using the analytical hierarchy process. Biological Conservation 49:215–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Arnold, J.G., J. Williams, and D.R. Maidment. 1997. Continuous time water and sediment routing model for large basins. Journal of Hydrologic Engineering 121: 171–183.Google Scholar
  5. Brinson, M.M. 1988. Strategies for assessing the cumulative effects of wetland alteration on water quality. Environmental Management 12:655–662.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Corry, R.C., and J.I. Nassauer. In press. Cultural possibilities for small patch patterns: Corn Belt watershed examples. In J. Liu, editor. Integrating landscape ecology into resource management. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England.Google Scholar
  7. Crosson, P., and J.E. Ostrov. 1990. Sorting out the environmental benefits of alternative agriculture. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 48:34–41.Google Scholar
  8. Daniels, R.B., and J.W. Gilliam. 1996. Sediment and chemical load reduction by grass and riparian filters. Soil Science Society of America Journal 60: 246–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Donigian, A.S., Jr., and W.C. Huber. 1991. Modeling of nonpoint source water quality in urban and non-urban areas. EPA/600/3-91/039. Environmental Research Laboratory, Athens, Georgia, USA.Google Scholar
  10. Dunning, J.B., D.J. Stewart, B.J. Danielson, B.R. Noon, T.L. Root, R.H. Lamberson, and E.F. Stevens. 1995. Spatially-explicit population models: current forms and future uses. Ecological Applications 5:3–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fahrig L. 1997. Relative effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on population extinction. Journal of Wildlife Management 61:603–610.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Farrar, D. 1981. Perspectives on Iowa’s declining flora and fauna-A symposium. Proceedings of the Iowa Academy of Science 88:1–6.Google Scholar
  13. Freemark, K. 1995. Assessing effects of agriculture on terrestrial wildlife: developing a hierarchical approach for the U.S. EPA. Landscape and Urban Planning 31:99–115.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Freemark, K., and J. Smith. 1995. A landscape retrospective for Walnut Creek, Story County. Technical report to the U.S. EPA.Google Scholar
  15. Freemark, K.E., C. Hummon, D. White, and D. Hulse. 1996. Modeling risks to biodiversity in past, present and future landscapes. Technical Report No. 268. Canadian Wildlife Service Headquarters, Environment Canada, Ottowa K1A 0H3.Google Scholar
  16. Galatowitsch, S.M., and A. van der Valk. 1994. Restoring prairie wetlands: an ecological approach. Iowa State University Press, Ames, Iowa, USA.Google Scholar
  17. Harms, B., J.P. Knaapen, and J.G. Rademakers. 1993. Landscape planning for nature restoration: comparing regional scenarios. In C. Vos and P. Opdam, editors. Landscape ecology of a stressed environment, Chapman & Hall, London, England.Google Scholar
  18. Heathcote, I. 1998. Integrated watershed management: principles and practice. John Wiley and Sons, New York, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  19. Hewes, L. 1951. The northern wet prairie of the United States: nature, sources of information, and extent. Annals of the Association of American Geographers 41:307–323.Google Scholar
  20. Holt, R.D., S.W. Pacala, T.W. Smith, and J. Liu. 1995. Linking contemporary vegetation models with spatially-explicit animal population models. Ecological Applications 5:20–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hulse, D., J. Eilers, K. Freemark, C. Hummon, and D. White. 2000. Planning alternative future landscapes in Oregon: evaluating effects on water quality and biodiversity. Landscape Journal 19:1–19.Google Scholar
  22. Klopatek, J.M., R.J. Olson, C.J. Emerson, and J.L. Joness. 1979. Land-use conflicts with natural vegetation in the United States. Environmental Conservation 6:191–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Korpimäki, E., and K. Nordahl. 1998. Experimental reduction of predators reverses the crash phase of small-rodent cycles. Ecology 79:2488–2455.Google Scholar
  24. Leopold, A. 1949. A Sand County almanac. Oxford University Press, New York, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  25. Losey, J.E., and R.F. Denno. 1998. Positive predator-predator interactions: enhanced predation rates and synergistic suppression of aphid populations. Ecology 79:2143–2152.Google Scholar
  26. Nassauer, J.L 1988. Landscape care: perceptions of local people in landscape ecology and sustainable development. Landscape and Land-use Planning 8. American Society of Landscape Architects, Washington, D.C., USA.Google Scholar
  27. Nassauer, J.I. 1997. Cultural sustainability. In J.I. Nassauer, editor. Placing nature: culture in landscape ecology. Island Press, Washington, D.C., USA.Google Scholar
  28. Office of Technology Assessment (OTA). 1995. Targeting environmental priorities in agriculture: reforming program strategies. Congress of the United States, OTA-ENV-640. U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., USA.Google Scholar
  29. Palmer, M.W. 1992. The coexistence of species in fractal landscapes. American Naturalist 139:375–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Pimentel, D., L. McLaughlin, A. Zepp, B. Latikan, T. Draus, P. Kleinman, F. Vancini, W.J. Roach, E. Grapp, W.S. Keeton, and G. Selig. 1991. Environmental and economic effects of reducing pesticide use. BioScience 41:402–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pratt, J.R., and J. Cairns, Jr. 1992. Ecological risks associated with the extinction of species. In Predicting ecosystem risk, J. Cairns, Jr., B.R. Neiderlehner, and D.R. Orvos, editors. Advances in modern ecotoxicology. Princeton University Scientific Publishing Co., Inc., Princeton, New Jersey, USA.Google Scholar
  32. Prior, J. 1991. Landforms of Iowa. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, Iowa, USA.Google Scholar
  33. Puckett, L.J. 1994. Nonpoint and point sources of nitrogen in major watersheds of the United States. U.S. Geological Survey, Water Resources Investigations Report 94-4001, USGS Washington, D.C., USA.Google Scholar
  34. Pulliam, R., and B.J. Danielson. 1991. Sources, sinks, and habitat selection: a landscape perspective on population dynamics. American Naturalist 137:S50–S66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Roosa, D.M. 1981. Iowa natural heritage preservation: history, present status, and future challenges. Proceedings of the Iowa Academy of Science 88:43–47.Google Scholar
  36. Runge, C.F. 1996. Agriculture and environmental policy: new business or business as usual? Working Paper No. 1. In Environmental reform: the next generation project. Yale Center for Law and the Environment, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.Google Scholar
  37. Rustigian, H. 1999. Assessing the potential impacts of alternative landscape designs on amphibian population dynamics. Master of Science Research Paper, Department of Geosciences, Geography Program, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon, USA.Google Scholar
  38. Schoonenboom, I.J. 1995. Overview and state of the art of scenario studies for the rural environment. Pages 15–24 in J.T.Th. Schoute et al., editors. Scenario studies for the rural environment. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.Google Scholar
  39. Schwartz, M., editor. 1995. Conservation in highly fragmented landscapes. Chapman & Hall, New York, New York, USA.Google Scholar
  40. Starfield, A. 1997. A pragmatic approach to modeling for wildlife management. Journal of Wildlife Management 61:261–270.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Steinitz, C, E. Bilda, J. Ellis, T. Johnson, Y. Hung, E. Katz, P. Meijerink, D. Olson, A. Shearer, H. Smith, and A. Sternberg. 1994. Alternative Futures for Monroe County, PA. Harvard University Graduate School of Design, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.Google Scholar
  42. Trzcinski, M.K., L. Fahrig, and G. Merriam. 1999. Independent effects of forest cover and fragmentation on the distribution of forest breeding birds. Ecological Applications 9:586–593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. USDA. 1992. Agricultural Statistics 1991. USDA, Washington, D.C., USA.Google Scholar
  44. Vitousek, P.M., J.D. Aber, R.W. Howarth, G.E. Likens, P.A. Matson, D.W. Schindler, W.H. Schlesinger, and D.G. Tilman. 1997. Human alteration of the global nitrogen cycle: sources and consequences. Ecological Applications 7:737–750.Google Scholar
  45. Walpole, S.C., and J.A. Sinden. 1997. BCA and GIS: integration of economic and environmental indicators to aid land management decisions. Ecological Economics 23:45–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. White, D., P.G. Minotti, M.J. Barczak, J.C. Sifneos, K.E. Freemark, M. Santelmann, C.F. Steinitz, A.R. Keister, and E.M. Preston. 1997. Assessing risks to biodiversity from future landscape change. Conservation Biology 11:349–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Williams, J.R., C.A. Jones, and P.T. Dyke. 1988. EPIC, the Erosion Productivity Index Calculator, Model Documentation, Vol. 1, Temple, Texas. USDA ARS.Google Scholar
  48. Worldwatch Institute. 1998. State of the world: a Worldwatch Institute report on progress toward a sustainable society. Norton, New York, New York, USA.Google Scholar

World Wide Web Citations

  1. Iowa Cooperative Soil Survey; Iowa Soil Properties and Interpretation Database. 3 March 2000. Google Scholar
  2. Rural Watersheds and Policy. Nassauer, J.I. 3 March 2000. Rural Watersheds and Policy).Google Scholar
  3. Simulations of future alternatives for agriculture. Clark, M.E. 3 March 2000.∼meclark/(sidebar: Baseline Simulations, Conservation Simulations).Google Scholar
  4. US-EPA Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds; Top Ten Watershed Lessons Learned. 3 March 2000. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary Santelmann
  • Kathryn Freemark
  • Denis White
  • Joan Nassauer
  • Mark Clark
  • Brent Danielson
  • Joseph Eilers
  • Richard M. Cruse
  • Susan Galatowitsch
  • Stephen Polasky
  • Kellie Vache
  • Junjie Wu

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations