Landscape memory

What is landscape memory?

The way in which a watershed appears and functions today is not only the result of contemporary conditions. Rather, watersheds have memory – of past land-use, extreme events, management actions, etc. – that propagate through time to impact the present. The length of that memory, however, is still incompletely understood, as is the degree to which memory controls current form and function. By striving to understand the processes and variables that govern how and for how long watersheds "remember" the past, we can enhance our ability to best manage river basins in the present and better anticipate how today's actions and events influence river futures. 


Photo credit: W. Dany Davis

The long legacy of storm influence on turbidity and suspended sediment

— this work is ongoing —

Using a distributed network of high-frequency in-situ sensors and big data analysis techniques, we are examining how major storms increase connectivity with chronic sources of fine sediment and lead to extended periods of elevated turbidity and suspended sediment following high flow events. Findings have meaningful implications for the management of drinking water supply reservoirs in the Catskill mountains, which provide water to New York City and have mandated levels of turbidity non-exceedance. 


W. Dany Davis, NYC Dept. of Env. Protection;

Jason Siemion, US Geological Survey;

Andrew Schroth, University of Vermont;

Kristin Underwood, University of Vermont; 

Scott Hamshaw, US Geological Survey