Hotspots of Landscape Change: Identifying Key Linkages between Water Quality and Land Development Patterns in Riparian Areas of the North Central Region

Project Staff: 

Principal Investigators: Lawrence Baker, Senior Fellow and Mary Renwick, Senior Fellow, Water Resources Center, University of Minnesota

Additional Staff: Stephanie Snyder and Robert Potts, U.S. Forest Service, North Central Research Station; Johanna Schussler, Graduate Program in Water Resources Science, University of Minnesota


U.S. Forest Service

Project Duration: 

July 2002 - June 2004


Recreational and urban development has been occurring rapidly in watersheds of lakes throughout the Upper Midwest. These changes may have negative impacts on lakes due to increased nutrient inputs and other changes associated with development. However, negative impacts do not always occur. We hypothesize that the spatial distribution and nature of land development is as important as the absolute magnitude of development (e.g., total population or total acreage of residential/urban land) in altering lake water quality. In this project we will identify a subset of lakes in Minnesota that have undergone substantial land development in their watersheds over the past two decades. These high-development lakes will be further subdivided into pairs, where one lake in each pair has undergone water quality degradation and the other has not. The development patterns in the watersheds of these lakes then will be analyzed to determine patterns of development that lead to water quality degradation. Conversely, we hope to identify patterns of development that do not lead to water quality degradation. This project is in its first quarter. The major tasks have been acquisition of data and development of the initial screening protocol.