What can stream quality tell us about quality of life?

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Virginia Tech researchers are utilizing stream quality knowledge to search out new insights into the interactions between the well being of our pure areas and human well-being. Credit: Brad Klodowski, Virginia Tech.

As the supply of most of the water we drink and a spot the place we frequently go to recreate and revel in nature, streams characterize a vital point-of-contact between human beings and the atmosphere.

Now researchers within the College of Natural Resources and Environment and the Department of Biological Systems Engineering are utilizing stream quality knowledge to search out new insights into the interactions between the well being of our pure areas and human well-being.

Their findings, revealed within the journal Ecological Indicators, reveal that demographics similar to race and inhabitants density, in addition to well being indices similar to most cancers charges and meals insecurity, present robust correlations with water quality throughout the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“We started off wanting to explore the general, intuitive relationship between human well-being and ecosystem health,” defined Paul Angermeier, professor within the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation and assistant unit chief of the Virginia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit for the U.S. Geological Survey. “Many of us intuit that healthy ecosystems produce benefits that accrue to people, but that outcome isn’t well documented in a quantitative way.”

To doc that relationship, the analysis workforce needed to break from the environmental quality administration processes that too typically separate the pure world from human experiences.

“When we consider natural resources, we tend to think about whether we’re managing an environment for nonhuman considerations or human ones,” stated Associate Professor Leigh-Anne Krometis, of the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, which is in each the College of Engineering and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. “For instance, at the state level we have a department of environmental quality and a department of health, which both deal with the subject of water quality, but in different ways. What we wanted to see was how those two perspectives converge.”

To discover correlations throughout the state, the researchers used two key knowledge units: water quality measurements supplied by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and county-level demographics knowledge from the U.S. Census Bureau. They thought of 13 indicators of human well-being, 4 demographic metrics, and two indicators of stream well being.

“We had large data sets that we had to organize and process,” defined Professor Marc Stern of the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation. “Our expectations on finding meaningful relationships between stream health and human factors weren’t that high. The fact that they showed up so distinctly was a surprise.”

What the researchers discovered is that there’s a robust correlation between ecosystem well being and human demographics, significantly alongside the strains of race. Stream situations have been discovered to be higher in counties with larger percentages of white residents. More polluted streams have been correlated with larger levels of general mortality.

“The term environmental justice is important to bring into our discussion,” famous Stern, a senior fellow within the Center for Leadership in Global Sustainability. “These findings relate to the broader issue of systemic prejudices and the reality that our institutions and social systems do not favor marginalized communities. They get caught up in a cycle of being left behind, and while it’s not impossible to break that pattern, it’s going to take work.”

Virginia is an acceptable microcosm for revealing such dimensions: the state has high-density city cities, suburban and rural areas, coastal and mountain geographies, and a broad socio-economic variety that make it a helpful start line for broader analysis into the topic of human-environment interactions.

An important subsequent step for the researchers is knowing how individuals are interacting with pure environments.

“We still don’t have hard data on how people are interacting with nature,” stated Angermeier, who, together with Krometis, is an affiliate of Virginia Tech’s Global Change Center housed within the Fralin Life Sciences Institute. “For instance, we found that mortality rates for people are correlated with contamination levels in fish. What does that mean? Are people eating contaminated fish, are they merely sharing a polluted water source, or is it something else? A better understanding of the mechanisms by which people are interacting with water will help us draw clearer conclusions about health outcomes.”


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More info:
Paul L. Angermeier et al. Exploring relationships amongst stream well being, human well-being, and demographics in Virginia, USA, Ecological Indicators (2020). DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2020.107194

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Virginia Tech


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What can stream quality tell us about quality of life? (2021, March 5)
retrieved 6 March 2021
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