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Evolving designer ecosystem sheds light on unintended consequences
Date:9/3/2008

Amidst the semi-arid stretches of Phoenix, a visitor might blink twice at the sight of a sailboat cutting across the horizon. Tempe Town Lake, on the northern edge of Arizona State University (ASU), is just one of a multitude of lakes, small ponds, canals and dams combining flood control, water delivery, recreational opportunities and aesthetics, and altering perception of water availability and economics in the area.

What are the consequences of such human-made tinkering with land cover and hydrology on surrounding native ecosystems and biodiversity? This question forms the backdrop for a case study proffered by an ASU research team and published in the journal BioScience, which found that one of the most profound impacts of urbanization is the "reconfiguration of surface hydrology."

Lead author John Roach, now with Simbiotic Software in Missoula, Mont., ASU professors Nancy Grimm and J. Ramon Arrowsmith and other former graduate students mapped water resources and connectivity and tracked land-use change in the Indian Bend Watershed (IBW). The researchers, associated with the Central Arizona-Phoenix Long Term Ecological Research project (CAP-LTER) and the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Training (IGERT) in Urban Ecology funded by the National Science Foundation, found that construction of artificial lakes and canal systems along with extensive groundwater pumping have had "unintended impacts on nutrient cycling."

"As Phoenix grew from a small settlement to the large urban center it is today, it built an extensive canal network to bring water from the Salt, Verde, and Colorado rivers to agricultural fields and city taps," says Roach. "While these canals enabled farmers to grow crops in the desert, they also cut across stream channels, disrupting the flow of water and sediments from tributary networks to the main channel. In pristine streams, sandbars and other patches created where these sediments collect are oft
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Contact: Margaret Coulombe
margaret.coulombe@asu.edu
480-727-8934
Arizona State University
Source:Eurekalert

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