need to provide fundamental long-term baseline monitoring in anticipation of the nation’s need for river science information. Although monitoring is usually designed to address specific problems, the value of a consistent national baseline monitoring approach to address emerging problems is frequently overlooked and undervalued. Understanding the impacts of agricultural and urban land-use changes on rivers and the influence of climatic variations on biogeochemical and water cycles are just two examples of the unforeseen usages of long-term streamflow observations from USGS streamgages. Another example is the integrated study of hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico (Goolsby et al., 1999), which has been instrumental in promoting a scientific understanding of the sources and fluxes of nutrients responsible for this problem. The report builds on baseline streamflow and nutrient monitoring by the USGS. Unfortunately, the degradation of the nation’s baseline monitoring of rivers over time (NRC, 2004d) threatens our ability to assess emerging problems in river science.
In the first part of this chapter, we describe opportunities for the USGS to build on its data collection infrastructure and expand its monitoring of hydrologic, geomorphic, chemical, biological, and ecological processes in river and floodplain ecosystems for national and regional science synthesis. We focus on enhancements in streamflow, biological, and sediment monitoring and on the establishment of a reach-scale monitoring approach. This section also describes some considerations for the general design principles of a modern river monitoring system, highlighting the importance of partnering monitoring efforts with other organizations and incorporating measurement technologies.
The value of these enhancements to river monitoring activities to river science depends on easy access to data, and the ability to efficiently utilize diverse measurements and data products from multiple disciplines, by the community of scientists and decision makers. In the second part of this chapter we discuss the data management challenges for river science, and recommend an informatics component for integrated data archiving, dissemination, and management.
One of the fundamental implementation challenges for a nationally relevant river science program is to leverage data resources to avoid duplication and target data collection activities to support the portfolio of data needs and uses. Although the focus of this chapter is on USGS activities in monitoring and data management for river science, coordination and cooperation among the federal resource management agencies and their nonfederal partners is imperative because of the scope, scale, and intensity of data needed to support river science. Plans for interagency collaboration need to be an integral part of any USGS river science monitoring and data archiving activity. No single federal agency can collect, quality assure, manage, and disseminate all data and observations relevant for river science. Yet all federal agencies, nonfederal partners, and stakeholders with an interest in river science and resource management will benefit from access and availability of accurate, reliable, and well-documented data.