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Long-Term Environmental Research: The Upper Washita River Experimental Watersheds, Oklahoma, USA

Jean L. Steiner, Patrick J. Starks, Jurgen D. Garbrecht, Daniel N. Moriasi, Xunchang Zhang, Jeanne M. Schneider, Jorge A. Guzman, Edward Osei
Journal of environmental quality 2014 v.43 no.4 pp. 1227-1238
Agricultural Research Service, climate, data collection, decision making, farms, humans, hydrology, infrastructure, issues and policy, land cover, landscapes, markets, risk, rivers, scientists, sediments, water quality, watersheds, weather, Oklahoma
Water is central to life and earth processes, connecting physical, biological, chemical, ecological, and economic forces across the landscape. The vast scope of hydrologic sciences requires research efforts worldwide and across a wide range of disciplines. While hydrologic processes and scientific investigations related to sustainable agricultural systems are based on universal principles, research to understand processes and evaluate management practices is often site-specific to achieve a critical mass of expertise and research infrastructure to address spatially, temporally, and ecologically complex systems. In the face of dynamic climate, market, and policy environments, long-term research is required to understand and predict risks and possible outcomes of alternative scenarios. This special section describes the USDA–ARS’s long-term research (1961 to present) in the Upper Washita River basin of Oklahoma. Data papers document datasets in detail (weather, hydrology, physiography, land cover, and sediment and nutrient water quality), and associated research papers present analyses based on those data. This living history of research is presented to engage collaborative scientists across institutions and disciplines to further explore complex, interactive processes and systems. Application of scientific understanding to resolve pressing challenges to agriculture while enhancing resilience of linked land and human systems will require complex research approaches. Research areas that this watershed research program continues to address include: resilience to current and future climate pressures; sources, fate, and transport of contaminants at a watershed scale; linked atmospheric–surface–subsurface hydrologic processes; high spatiotemporal resolution analyses of linked hydrologic processes; and multiple-objective decision making across linked farm to watershed scales.