Core Project: Designing effective land management policies for the 21st century Ohio River Basin


This project is designed to directly address the CWC questions, "Do we have enough surface water to maintain society?" and "How is the carbon cycle being disrupted by human activities and how can the cycle be re-balanced to mitigate abrupt climate change (ACC) and its adverse effects?" Using an integrated approach and the Ohio River Basin as our area of focus, our project will focus on two basic questions:

  1. Do we have enough surface water of sufficient quality to maintain ecological, social, and economic systems?
  2. How is the carbon cycle, as well as other important biogeochemical cycles (e.g., nitrogen, phosphorus), being disrupted by human activities, and how can these cycles be re-balanced through policies designed to mitigate the effects of human activities, including land-use change and accelerated climate change?

It is clear that human activities have dramatically affected the linkages among aquatic, terrestrial, and atmospheric systems, leading to modifications in critical biogeochemical cycles that are adversely affecting both environmental and human health via changes in water quantity and quality. The ultimate goal of this core CWC project is to address these concerns by designing effective land management policies that will help maintain water quantity and quality via the restoration of key biophysical and social systems.

We will work to meet this goal by focusing on four major tasks:

  1. Our team will quantify how biophysical factors are affected by land-use and ecosystem change, especially along land-use intensification and development gradients.
  2. We will develop a core competency on how land management decisions are shaped by behavioral, geographic, and biophysical processes, and how these decisions impact land-use and ecosystem change at a variety of different scales.
  3. We will integrate our increased understanding of the biophysical and social systems to identify key leverage points that influence land management practices.
  4. We will use this information to develop and test the effectiveness of novel public policies aimed at protecting water quantity and quality by focusing on more holistic management of the underlying biogeochemical and social processes that affect water resources.

Although this information is needed for watersheds across the globe, we will focus our efforts on the Ohio River Basin, a highly modified landscape that serves as an excellent model system to develop this body of knowledge. We have assembled a diverse team of researchers that will help us meet these objectives, and our approach will allow us to expand this core research project and integrate with other CWC core projects, as well as other regional partners in both the public and private sectors.

These efforts should place OSU at the forefront of water science and policy research in the Ohio River Basin.

Project Status

Funding for the project has recently become available (February, 2009). More information will be coming soon.


Charles Goebel
Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center

Richard Moore
College of food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

Robyn Wilson
Assistant Professor
School of Environment and Natural Resources