While many different watershed management strategies have been implemented to improve water quality, relatively few studies empirically tested the combined effects of different strategies on water quality in relation to land cover changes using long-term empirical data at the sub-basin scale. Using 10 years of total suspended solids (TSS) data, we examined how the conversion of wetland, wetland fragmentation, beaver dams, and Best Management Practices (BMPs) affect wet season TSS concentrations for the 25 monitoring stations in the Tualatin River basin, USA. Geographic information systems, FRAGSTATS, and correlation analysis were used to identify the direction of land cover change, degree of wetland fragmentation, and the strength of the relationship between TSS change and explanatory variables. Improvement in TSS concentrations was tightly coupled with the aggregation of wetlands, presence of beaver dams, particularly during the mid-wet season when flows were highest. Other BMPs effectively reduced TSS concentrations for the early and late-wet seasons when flows were not as high as in the middle wet-season. Aggregated wetlands were more effective for improving water quality than smaller disaggregated wetlands of similar total area when combined with the presence of beaver dams and BMPs. These findings offer important scientific and practical implications for management of urbanizing watersheds that seek to achieve the dual goals of improving environmental quality and land development.
Keywords: Beaver dams; Fragmentation; GIS; Land cover; Total suspended sediment; Wetland restoration.
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