Skip to main content
SLU publication database (SLUpub)

2024Open access

Recognizing Agricultural Headwaters as Critical Ecosystems

Bieroza, Magdalena; Hallberg, Lukas; Livsey, John; Prischl, Laura-Ainhoa; Wynants, Maarten

Abstract

Agricultural headwaters are positioned at the interface between terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems and, therefore, at the margins of scientific disciplines. They are deemed devoid of biodiversity and too polluted by ecologists, overlooked by hydrologists, and are perceived as a nuisance by landowners and water authorities. While agricultural streams are widespread and represent a major habitat in terms of stream length, they remain understudied and thereby undervalued. Agricultural headwater streams are significantly modified and polluted but at the same time are the critical linkages among land, air, and water ecosystems. They exhibit the largest variation in streamflow, water quality, and greenhouse gas emission with cascading effects on the entire stream networks, yet they are underrepresented in monitoring, remediation, and restoration. Therefore, we call for more intense efforts to characterize and understand the inherent variability and sensitivity of these ecosystems to global change drivers through scientific and regulatory monitoring and to improve their ecosystem conditions and functions through purposeful and evidence-based remediation.

Keywords

Agricultural land use; stream networks; hydrology; stream chemistry; stream ecology

Published in

Environmental Science and Technology
2024, Volume: 58, number: 11, pages: 4852-4858 Publisher: AMER CHEMICAL SOC