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Water Quality as a Critical Ecosystem Service: Understanding Feedbacks between Ecological and Social Sciences in an Urban Area

Project Leaders: Steve Bollens, Heejun Chang, John Harrison, Gretchen Rollwagen-Bollens, Alan Yeakley

An interdisciplinary team of biophysical and social scientists will investigate the complex interactions and feedback among land development, disturbance and water quality in the Portland/Vancouver metropolitan area.

Research Questions:

  1. How do humans, individually and acting collectively through government agencies and NGO's, assess and respond to impaired water quality and have differences in the structure of participatory government resulted in differences in water quality (status or improvement) in Portland vs. Vancouver?
  2. Do land development patterns and landscape structures (measured by indices) affect water quality and ecosystem services?
  3. Do the attributes of urban greenspace (including water quality) affect property values?


  • Water Quality - we will compile available water quality data from agencies and other entities, assess the quality of the data and create a composite data set for analysis.
  • GIS Analysis - ArcGIS will be used to delineate basin boundaries and estimate percent land cover (with exact parameters still under discussion) for each study watershed. Landscape fragmentation in each watershed will be determined using Fragstats.
  • Statistical Analysis - To identify biophysical and socioeconomic factors that affect water quality and property values, we will use stepwise multiple regressions and spatial regression models available in SPSS and GeoDa.
  • Field Measurement - If time and resources permit, we plan to conduct a synoptic sampling of water temperature, dissolved oxygen, conductivity, and TSS. This may be apart of ongoing GK-12 and SWRP activities.
  • Lab Analysis - For a selected subset of the data, particle size analysis and nutrient analyses may be conducted.
  • Content Analysis - of agency related documents.
  • Social Survey - done in conjunction with other working groups.