Watersheds are important landscape features that control the amount and quality of water flowing from the land to the sea. This interdisciplinary field of study focuses on the fundamental processes governing the transport and chemical composition of surface and subsurface waters. Water resource studies include societal impacts of the quality and quantity of water available for drinking water and irrigation and to sustain important ecosystem services, such as forest habitats and fisheries.
UMCES researchers work in the continuum of “mountains to the sea” in the Chesapeake Bay watershed and other watersheds of the world. From small catchments to large river basins, they focus on improving understanding of the ecosystems, the hydrological processes, the biogeochemical cycles, and the human activities that affect watershed properties. Major issues that affect water yield and water quality include effects of atmospheric deposition from air pollution, forest disturbances from insects or from harvesting, land use change from urban or agricultural expansion, and climate change. Research is often aimed at linking local activities, such as management of forest stands, farms, or road runoff, to regional or global phenomena, such as municipal water supply or degradation or restoration of estuaries and bays.