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Evaluating the Comprehensive Impacts of Urbanization and Restoration on Stream Processes

Successful restoration of the urbanized Delaware Estuary will provide great benefit to people and wildlife alike by improving ecosystem services. Although considerable progress has been made towards this goal of restoration, the estuary’s location at the center of complex urban, suburban, and agricultural land use makes this a challenge. In urban areas, one of the most effective tools for watershed restoration is the implementation of green stormwater infrastructure (GSI). Comprehensive testing and modeling to allow information-based adaptation of these practices is a critical, but largely incomplete imperative. This proposal requests assistance in the continuation of a long-term project to quantify the effectiveness of GSI implementation and the effects of urbanization using a Before-After-Control-Impact study design rooted in the Stream Functions Pyramid Framework (SFPF). Support is needed to continue physical, chemical, and biological monitoring at five carefully selected stream locations, which drain impaired, rehabilitated, and relatively pristine basins. Results of this study will provide critical information-based guidance to Pennsylvania municipalities regarding the implementation of GSI. This study represents a rare opportunity to document the health of these streams at all five levels of the SFPF (hydrology, hydraulic, geomorphology, physiochemical, and biology) and to synthesize how these levels are quantitatively connected. An extensive public and professional outreach is planned, using relationships we have previously developed during the course of the project. Finally, because most of the equipment has already been purchased for this project, the majority of requested funds will support graduate and undergraduate students at Villanova University and the University of Baltimore, respectively. In summary, this study will provide key practical information regarding GSI implementation, which will serve to improve ecosystem services in developed watersheds such as the Delaware Estuary, and will provide educational opportunities for many Pennsylvania citizens.

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