Hydrologic modeling as a decision-making tool in wildlife management

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Virginia Tech

Wildlife managers, through the use and management of their areas, influence water quality and quantity on and off site. Natural resource managers are coming under increasing pressure to preserve ecosystems and natural processes while producing a "optimum" balance of recreation, wildlife habitat, and natural resource products, and to justify their decisions. Water is a critical component to consider when managing recreation, wildlife, and wildlife habitats, and is itself a valuable resource to be managed.

Unfortunately, the knowledge of hydrology is imperfect, effects of each management option are hard to predict, and field studies are time-consuming and expensive.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate a simple hydrologic model as a tool for assisting wildlife managers in comparing potential hydrologic effects of different management options and of natural and anthropogenic site disturbances on eastern forested mountain watersheds.

A number of existing hydrologic models were considered. AGNPS (Agricultural Non-Point Source pollution model) was chosen for its simplicity, applicable outputs, and successful use around the country. AGNPS was applied to a watershed at the Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory in North Carolina. After adjustments, a baseline run was made, then the model was manipulated to simulate and compare several hypothetical management scenarios.

This study demonstrated the potential utility of hydrologic models in wildlife management or other natural resource management decision-making processes. Model outputs may be useful in evaluating the relative impacts of alternative land-use decisions. Some problems remain in modeling the hydrology of eastern forested mountain watersheds.