Evolution of agricultural watersheds in a systems management framework

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Water Resources Systems Analysis through Case Studies: Data and models for decision-making

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Understanding the connections and resulting tradeoffs among agricultural and environmental policies, landowner decision-making processes, and environmental outcomes is an important step in structuring policies and incentives that target ecosystem service generation and overall environmental quality without undermining agricultural productivity. Virtual Watershed is an Internet-based watershed planning tool aimed at improving that understanding. The model is built by integrating several important systems-related tools (multi-objective evolutionary algorithms, agent-based programming, and environmental/hydrologic simulation) in an effort to capture the dynamic interactions among economic and ecological conditions, public policies, land manager behavior and demographics, and historical land use patterns. This case study involves application of Virtual Watershed to Big Creek watershed, a 133-sq. km basin located in southernmost Illinois. Students can examine the impact of varying watershed management strategies and explore opportunities with respect to ecosystem service generation in the Big Creek watershed.

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