Once lost in the mists of time, the colonial hydrology of the northeastern U.S. has been reconstructed by a team of geoscientists, biological scientists and social scientists.
The results, which extend as far back as the year 1600, appear in the current issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology (ES&T).
The findings provide a new way of uncovering the hydrology of the past, and will lead to a better understanding of hydrologic systems now and in the future, the scientists say.
"We outline a methodology for synthesizing modern scientific data with historical records, including anecdotal sources," says Christopher Pastore of the University of New Hampshire, the paper's lead author. "It underscores the role of humans in an assessment of hydrologic change."
Throughout American history, water resources have played an integral role in shaping patterns of human settlement and networks of biological and economic exchange.
"The research emphasizes the effect of human activities on the evolution of watersheds and on the dynamics of ecosystems important to water sustainability," says Thomas Torgersen, program director in NSF's Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research.
The scientists divided their study area into three geographic and socio-political subregions: New England; the Middle Colonies; and the Chesapeake.
They then looked at the ways in which physical variables--such as soil, vegetation, and climate--combined with socio-political factors to influence each subregion's hydrologic environment.
In New England, for example, close-knit religious communities with strong central governments concentrated their economic efforts on fur-trading and timber extraction, according to the paper's co-authors, which include Charles Vorosmarty of the City University of New York, principal investigator on the NSF grant.
The Chesapeake region, on the other hand, was se
|Contact: Cheryl Dybas|
National Science Foundation