A geostatistical approach for studying environmental conditions in stream networks and landscapes has been successfully applied at a valley-wide scale to assess headwater stream chemistry at high resolution, revealing unexpected patterns in natural chemical components. “Headwater streams make up the majority of stream and river length in watersheds, affecting regional water quality,” said Associate Professor Kevin J. McGuire, associate director of the Virginia Water Resources Research Center.

“Understanding the chemistry of these streams at a finer scale could help to identify factors impairing water quality and help us protect aquatic ecosystems,” said co-reseacher Gene E. Likens of the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies and the University of Connecticut.

Results of the study were published in the April 21, 2014, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science. The data used in the new analysis consist of 664 water samples collected every 300 feet throughout all 32 tributaries of the 14-square-mile Hubbard Brook Valley in New Hampshire. “The goal was to visualize patterns that no one has been able to quantify before now and describe how they vary within headwater stream networks,” said McGuire.

Read the full press release.