Archive for March, 2013

At the specialty conference

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013

Thought you’d like to know the authors of two just-posted Early View articles are here in St. Louis at the AWRA Spring Specialty Conference on Agricultural Hydrology and Water Quality II: Stephanie Johnson and Jane Frankenberger

TMDL Balance: A Model for Coastal Water Pollutant Loadings Stephanie L. Johnson, David R. Maidment and Mary J. Kirisits

Locating Existing Best Management Practices Within a Watershed: The Value of Multiple Methods Caitlin A. Grady, Adam P. Reimer, Jane Frankenberger and Linda Stalker Prokopy

Meet me in St. Louie

Friday, March 22nd, 2013

I will be in St. Louis next week at the AWRA Spring Specialty Conference on Agricultural Hydrology and Water Quality II. The hotel is downtown, right across the street from the ballpark. Alas, I am correct in space but a week early in time: opening day is the week after. All the more reason to for me to attend the sessions. Will I see you there?

Return without review

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Highly-regarded journals like JAWRA have a problem: We receive more articles than we can possibly review. The traditional solution is to return without review those articles with little chance of publication. We return about 25% of submissions. (Science, in comparison returns about 90%.) I read all manuscripts, and usually pass them to an associate editor for a second opinion. We’re not perfect, but we see enough manuscripts to get a pretty good feel for what works. We try to return unreviewed articles within 30 days to help the authors submit them elsewhere.

Contrary to what you might think, returning a manuscript does not necessarily imply it is bad science. Many returned manuscripts are on a subject not really suitable for JAWRA, have a very narrow focus, or present sampling results with no analysis. We always provide a reason for the return, and try to recommend a better venue for such papers.

Why not add more reviewers and look at everything? Our reviewers are a precious resource, and we don’t like to waste their time looking at manuscripts with no real chance of publication. It’s also better for authors to find out early, rather than wait a couple of months for review results.

On rare occasions, the associate editor or I spot a serious but correctable flaw in an incoming manuscript. Reviewers tend to go hard on manuscripts with obvious errors. In these cases, a quick return for correction actually helps a resubmittal’s chances of acceptance.

One of the big fears of any editor is turning down the next blockbuster. (“No, Ms. Rowling, we don’t think readers would be interested in a boy wizard.”) But, returning without review is one of those decisions you have to make to keep the system working smoothly.

So, if you get a “return without review” decision, don’t be discouraged! Hopefully, we saved you some time with an early decision. Nothing personal, but it’s all part of the modern publishing system.

Agricultural intensity index

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Early View article:Development and Application of an Agricultural Intensity Index to Invertebrate and Algal Metrics from Streams at Two Scales,” by Ian R. Waite.

Figure 1 from paper

When interpreting water quality and biological responses to agricultural practices, most studies have used single variables of the total amount of agricultural land use within either the watershed or riparian zones to represent the environmental continuum posed by agricultural intensity. However, the amount, type, and intensity of agricultural practices vary within basins, particularly when viewed across regional or national scales. Therefore, some measure is needed to account for these differences among agricultural regions. This paper develops an agricultural index across all sites that would use only landscape-based variables to effectively describe an environmental continuum that integrates the combined effects of agricultural practices within the watershed and riparian zone.

By including variables on nutrient input with variables on agricultural land use together in an AG-Index, an important agriculture signature was revealed that could have been missed by using the variable percent agriculture alone. However, even though the index developed and tested in this study was effective, the author believes it could be greatly improved by the inclusion of variable(s) on the amount of domestic grazing and suggest that assessment of the intensity and quantity of grazing across North American landscapes be made a high priority. In addition, percent agriculture in the riparian zone from orthophotographs showed significant improvement over NLCD estimates of agricultural land use in the riparian zone, and this was an important addition to the index.

[Please note: I have quoted and paraphrased freely from the article, but the interpretation is my own.]

Stream compensatory mitigation

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Early View article: An Assessment of U.S. Stream Compensatory Mitigation Policy: Necessary Changes to Protect Ecosystem Functions and Services,” by Colleen E. Bronner, Amy M. Bartlett, Sarah L. Whiteway, Douglas C. Lambert, Sean J. Bennett, and Alan J. Rabideau.

This article highlights components of the Mitigation Rule and current nationwide permits that need to be addressed to better protect stream ecosystem functions and services, and suggests improvements to existing stream compensatory mitigation policies.

Compensatory mitigation of impacted streams and wetlands has increased over the past two decades, with the associated industry spending over US$2.9 billion in aquatic restoration annually. Despite these expenditures, evaluations by the National Research Council and U.S. Government Accountability Office have provided evidence that compensatory mitigation practices are failing to protect aquatic resource functions and services, and vague federal policy and inadequate evaluation of compensatory mitigation projects are to blame. To address these weaknesses, an update to federal regulations on compensatory mitigation was released in 2008. Additionally, the 2012 Reissuance of Nationwide Permits, some of which affects compensatory stream mitigation, was recently published. Current policy, as reflected in these documents, still uses nonspecific language to direct compensatory stream mitigation leaving most implementation decisions to the local U.S. Army Corps of Engineers district. The majority of federal mitigation policy has focused on wetland compensation, with other aquatic resources receiving less attention (e.g., streams). In this article, weaknesses of current policy are discussed, as are suggested policy changes to minimize the loss of stream ecosystem functions and services. Compensatory mitigation policy should clearly define key terms, incorporate adaptive management procedures, and provide guidelines for determining mitigation costs and compensation ratio requirements.

[Please note: I have quoted and paraphrased freely from the article, but the interpretation is my own.]

Associate Editors still wanted.

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

We still are looking for Associate Editors in these fields:

Both vacancies will be kept open until Friday, April 12,2013.

I can almost guarantee, nothing will help your own writing more than becoming an AE. You quickly will gain an appreciation of what resonates with reviewers and editors.

Spatiotemporal variation in water quality

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Early View article: “Assessment of Surface Water Quality at Large Watershed Scale: Land-Use, Anthropogenic, and Administrative Impacts,” by Ranhao Sun, Zhaoming Wang, Liding Chen, and Wei Wang.

Figure 1

This study describes the spatiotemporal variation in surface water quality and identifies their main impact in the Haihe River basin, China. Multivariate statistical techniques are applied to analyze the similarities among the sampling sites and to identify the main pollution sources in surface water. Results show that: (1) the basin can be clustered into two regions, water quality being better in the mountainous vs. plain regions; (2) water quality improves due to implementation of a strict state policy on environmental pollution control, prodded by the hosting of the Olympic games in the cities of Beijing and Tianjin; and (3) agricultural and residential land uses as well as livestock-breeding are the main sources affecting water quality in the mountainous regions, whereas rural waste discharge — including domestic waste sewage, human and animal feces, and solid waste — significantly influences water quality in the plain regions. The waste discharge of industrial factories may be a significant source of water pollution in the plain regions. Results indicate that the environmental management from pollution sinks and sources, long-lasting legal framework, and adequate economic incentives should be improved to optimize the large-scale watershed management under the background of the rapid development of countries like China.

[Please note: I have quoted and paraphrased freely from the article, but the interpretation is my own.]

Correlating physical conditions to biological integrity

Thursday, March 7th, 2013

Early View article:Assessing Linkages in Stream Habitat, Geomorphic Condition, and Biological Integrity Using a Generalized Regression Neural Network,” by Bree R. Mathon, Donna M. Rizzo, Michael Kline , Gretchen Alexander, Steve Fiske, Richard Langdon, and Lori Stevens.

Biological sampling typically is labor intensive. So, the quest continues for a way to correlate biological integrity with a stream’s more easily observed physical conditions.

This paper evaluates the effectiveness of a generalized regression neural network (GRNN) to predict biological integrity using physical (i.e., geomorphic and habitat) stream-reach assessment data. The method is first tested using geomorphic assessments to predict habitat condition for 1,292 stream reaches from the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources. The GRNN methodology outperforms linear regression (69% vs. 40% classified correctly) and improves slightly with additional data on channel evolution. Analysis of a subset of the reaches where physical assessments are used to predict biological integrity shows no significant linear correlation, however the GRNN predicted 48% of the fish health data and 23% of macroinvertebrate health. Although the GRNN is superior to linear regression, these results show linking physical and biological health remains challenging.

[Please note: I have quoted and paraphrased freely from the article, but the interpretation is my own.]

The Big Apple this week

Friday, March 1st, 2013

I spent the week in New York City supporting our grown daughter through an illness. Though I powdered her bottom as a baby, the role of a father at this point could best be described as “go fer.” Also, “hurry up and wait,” a term those familiar with the army or hospitals will understand.

First of all I want to thank the many people who offered their support in this trying time. Sara is doing much better thanks to your wishes and prayers.

As a side benefit, the wait-around time, along with good network connections, has let me catch up on my ScholarOne work queue.