Water resources played vital role in patterns of human settlement

December 5th, 2010 - 2:29 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, Dec 5 (ANI): Water resources played an important role in shaping patterns of human settlement and networks of biological and economic exchange, say scientists as they reconstruct the colonial hydrology of the northeastern United States that was lost in the mists of time.

According to scientists, the findings have provided a new way of uncovering the hydrology of the past and will lead to a better understanding of hydrologic systems now and in the future, reports the Science Daily.

“We outline a methodology for synthesizing modern scientific data with historical records, including anecdotal sources,” said Christopher Pastore of the University of New Hampshire.

“It underscores the role of humans in an assessment of hydrologic change,” he said.

Thomas Torgersen, program director in National Science Foundation’s Division of Earth Sciences, said, “The research emphasizes the effect of human activities on the evolution of watersheds and on the dynamics of ecosystems, important to water sustainability.”

The scientists divided their study area into three geographic and socio-political subregions: New England; the Middle Colonies; and the Chesapeake. They then looked at the ways in which physical variables–such as soil, vegetation, and climate-combined with socio-political factors to influence each subregion’s hydrologic environment.

In New England, for example, close-knit religious communities with strong central governments concentrated their economic efforts on fur-trading and timber extraction.

The Chesapeake region, on the other hand, was settled largely by young, unskilled men who cleared trees and planted tobacco fencerow to fencerow.

The Middle Colonies were characterized by diverse social, cultural, and religious traditions and feudal-style estate agriculture.

Integration of human decision-making into analyses of land-cover change, engineering and climate change is fundamental to understanding subregional hydrologic patterns and how they interact, said the scientists.

They recommend two metrics for quantifying hydrologic change.

The first, which they call a simple water balance, takes into account precipitation, evapotranspiration, and water storage, which can be used to track changes in annual river discharge. The second, termed mean water residence time, or the average time a water molecule spends in one place, can also be used to calculate the amount of water moving through a system.

The results appeared in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. (ANI)

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