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  1. Abstract

    Wetlands protect downstream waters by filtering excess nitrogen (N) generated from agricultural and urban activities. Many small ephemeral wetlands, also known as geographically isolated wetlands (GIWs), are hotspots of N retention but have received fewer legal protections due to their apparent isolation from jurisdictional waters. Here, we hypothesize that the isolation of the GIWs make them more efficient N filters, especially when considering transient hydrologic dynamics. We use a reduced complexity model with 30 years of remotely sensed monthly wetland inundation levels in 3700 GIWs across eight wetlandscapes in the US to show how consideration of transient hydrologic dynamics can increase N retention estimates by up to 130%, with greater retention magnification for the smaller wetlands. This effect is more pronounced in semi-arid systems such as the prairies in North Dakota, where transient assumptions lead to 1.8 times more retention, compared to humid landscapes like the North Carolina Pocosins where transient assumptions only lead to 1.4 times more retention. Our results highlight how GIWs have an outsized role in retaining nutrients, and this service is enhanced due to their hydrologic disconnectivity which must be protected to maintain the integrity of downstream waters.

  2. Abstract Due to the mixed distribution of buildings and vegetation, wildland-urban interface (WUI) areas are characterized by complex fuel distributions and geographical environments. The behavior of wildfires occurring in the WUI often leads to severe hazards and significant damage to man-made structures. Therefore, WUI areas warrant more attention during the wildfire season. Due to the ever-changing dynamic nature of California’s population and housing, the update frequency and resolution of WUI maps that are currently used can no longer meet the needs and challenges of wildfire management and resource allocation for suppression and mitigation efforts. Recent developments in remote sensing technology and data analysis algorithms pose new opportunities for improving WUI mapping methods. WUI areas in California were directly mapped using building footprints extracted from remote sensing data by Microsoft along with the fuel vegetation cover from the LANDFIRE dataset in this study. To accommodate the new type of datasets, we developed a threshold criteria for mapping WUI based on statistical analysis, as opposed to using more ad-hoc criteria as used in previous mapping approaches. This method removes the reliance on census data in WUI mapping, and does not require the calculation of housing density. Moreover, this approach designates the adjacentmore »areas of each building with large and dense parcels of vegetation as WUI, which can not only refine the scope and resolution of the WUI areas to individual buildings, but also avoids zoning issues and uncertainties in housing density calculation. Besides, the new method has the capability of updating the WUI map in real-time according to the operational needs. Therefore, this method is suitable for local governments to map local WUI areas, as well as formulating detailed wildfire emergency plans, evacuation routes, and management measures.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available December 1, 2023
  3. Maritime transportation is crucial to national economic development as it offers a low-cost, safe, and efficient alternative for movement of freight compared to its land or air counterparts. River and channel dredging protocols are often adopted in many ports and harbors of the world to meet the increasing demand for freight and ensure safe passage of larger vessels. However, such protocols may have unintended adverse consequences on flood risks and functioning of coastal ecosystems and thereby compromising the valuable services they provide to society and the environment. This study analyzes the compound effects of dredging protocols under a range of terrestrial and coastal flood drivers, including the effects of sea level rise (SLR) on compound flood risk, vessel navigability, and coastal wetland inundation dynamics in Mobile Bay (MB), Alabama. We develop a set of hydrodynamic simulation scenarios for a range of river flow and coastal water level regimes, SLR projections, and dredging protocols designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. We show that channel dredging helps increase bottom (‘underkeel’) clearances by a factor of 3.33 under current mean sea level and from 4.20 to 4.60 under SLR projections. We find that both low and high water surface elevations (WSEs)more »could be detrimental, with low WSE (< -1.22 m) hindering safe navigation whereas high WSE (> 0.87 m) triggering minor to major flooding in the surrounding urban and wetland areas. Likewise, we identify complex inundation patterns emerging from nonlinear interactions of SLR, flood drivers, and dredging protocols, and additionally estimate probability density functions (PDFs) of wetland inundation. We show that changes in mean sea level due to SLR diminish any effects of channel dredging on wetland inundation dynamics and shift the PDFs beyond pre-established thresholds for moderate and major flooding. In light of our results, we recommend the need for integrated analyses that account for compound effects on vessel navigation and wetland inundation, and provide insights into environmental-friendly solutions for increasing cargo transportation.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 18, 2023
  4. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 1, 2023
  5. Free, publicly-accessible full text available August 1, 2023
  6. Rates of poverty and economic inequality in rural Alabama are among the nation's highest and increasing agricultural productivity can provide a needed boost to these communities. The transition from rain-fed to irrigation-fed (RFtoIF) agriculture has significantly increased farm productivity and profitability elsewhere in the United States. Despite this potential to enhance stability and resilience in rural economies, irrigated cropland accounts for only 5% of Alabama's total cropland as numerous barriers remain to irrigation adoption. To encourage RFtoIF transition, it is imperative to identify the challenges faced by individual farmers at farm, community, and state levels. This study presents a multi-level mixed effects survival analysis to identify the physiographic, socioecological, and economic factors that influence the location and timing of irrigation adoption. We integrate spatiotemporal cropland and climatological data with field-verified locations of center-pivot irrigation systems, local physiographic characteristics, and parcel-level surface water access and average well depth. Access to surface water, costs to access groundwater, and soil characteristics were generally important influences in all regions, but regions were differentiated by the extent to which new irrigation was more responsive to social influences vs. precipitation and price trends. Our findings also highlighted the diversity of farming conditions across the state, whichmore »suggested that diverse policy tools are needed that acknowledge the varying motivations and constraints faced by Alabama's farmers.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available July 7, 2023
  7. Abstract Inundation area is a major control on the ecosystem services provisioned by geographically isolated wetlands. Despite its importance, there has not been any comprehensive study to map out the seasonal inundation characteristics of geographically isolated wetlands over the continental United States (CONUS). This study fills the aforementioned gap by evaluating the seasonality or the long-term intra-annual variations of wetland inundation in ten wetlandscapes across the CONUS. We also assess the consistency of these intra-annual variations. Finally, we evaluate the extent to which the seasonality can be explained based on widely available hydrologic fluxes. Our findings highlight significant intra-annual variations of inundation within most wetlandscapes, with a standard deviation of the long-term averaged monthly inundation area ranging from 15% to 151% of its mean across the wetlandscapes. Stark differences in inundation seasonality are observed between snow-affected vs. rain-fed wetlandscapes. The former usually shows the maximum monthly inundation in April following spring snowmelt (SM), while the latter experiences the maximum in February. Although the magnitude of inundation fraction has changed over time in several wetlandscapes, the seasonality of these wetlands shows remarkable constancy. Overall, commonly available regional hydrologic fluxes (e.g. rainfall, SM, and evapotranspiration) are found to be able to explainmore »the inundation seasonality at wetlandscape scale with determination coefficients greater than 0.57 in 7 out of 10 wetlandscapes. Our methodology and presented results may be used to map inundation seasonality and consequently account for its impact on wetland functions.« less
    Free, publicly-accessible full text available April 19, 2023
  8. Abstract Root zone soil moisture (RZSM) is a dominant control on crop productivity, land-atmosphere feedbacks, and the hydrologic response of watersheds. Despite its importance, obtaining gap-free daily moisture data remains challenging. For example, remote sensing-based soil moisture products often have gaps arising from limits posed by the presence of clouds and satellite revisit period. Here, we retrieve a proxy of daily RZSM using the actual evapotranspiration (ETa) estimates from Surface Flux Equilibrium Theory (SFET). Our method is calibration-less, parsimonious, and only needs widely available meteorological data and standard land-surface parameters. Evaluation of the retrievals at Oklahoma Mesonet sites shows that our method, overall, matches or outperforms widely available RZSM estimates from three markedly different approaches, viz. remote sensing data based Atmosphere-Land EXchange Inversion (ALEXI) model, the Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) model, and the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission RZSM data product. When compared with in-situ observations, unbiased root mean square difference of retrieved RZSM were 0.03 (m 3 m −3 ), 0.06 (m 3 m −3 ), and 0.05 (m 3 m −3 ) for our method, the ALEXI model, and the VIC model, respectively. Better performance of our method is attributed to the use of both SFET formore »the estimation of ETa and non-parametric kernel-based method used to relate the RZSM with ETa. RZSM from our method may serve as a more accurate and temporally-complete alternative for a variety of applications including mapping of agricultural droughts, assimilation of RZSM for hydrometeorological forecasting, and design of optimal irrigation schedules.« less