Anthropogenic Impacts on the Wabash River

Project Title: Examining Anthropogenic Impacts on the Wabash River System

Principal Investigator(s): Dr. Jennifer C. Latimer, Indiana State University, Department of Earth and Environmental Systems

Dates: March 2017-February 2018

Total Federal Funds:  Total Non-Federal Funds:

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Dr. Gary Lamberti

Through a combination of progressive industrialization, agriculture, and development throughout the Wabash Valley over the past century, the Wabash River has experienced a history of substantial anthropogenic impact. Rivers are transient systems that channelize water, solutes, organisms, sediments and pollutants downstream, which allow human-driven changes to stream environments, and adjacent watersheds, to have far-reaching consequences. Intermittent monitoring of most ecosystems results in inadequate models for determining total annual nutrient fluxes, seasonal patterns in nutrient concentration, and aquatic community dynamics in most rivers. Because most sediments are carried downstream, long-term environmental perspectives for most river systems don’t exist. Here we propose research to explore the impact of human modification of the aquatic environment of the Wabash River through a combination of modern water monitoring and short sediment records collected from lakes adjacent to the river that undergo periodic flooding. Our proposed research includes weekly geochemical and diatom community analyses of the seasonal patterns in the river, both upstream and downstream of Terre Haute, Indiana. An identical analysis is also proposed for adjacent seasonally-flooded lake sediments to provide a long-term environmental context for the modern ecosystem, using sediment geochemistry and fossil diatom assemblage changes. Our research should provide data about the seasonality of agriculturally-driven nutrient fluxes that will inform local and state water management policies and may help target remediation efforts and data regarding the timing of potential invasive species that may have been introduced by human activities in the Wabash River.