Workshop Challenge Questions

Workshop Challenge Questions


  • land use –  Land use refers to how humans are using the land. Examples of land use types include: urban, residential, commercial, agriculture, undeveloped, public.

  • land cover – Land cover is the physical material that covers the earth’s surface. Examples of land cover types include: barren, open water, wetlands, grassland, forest (see for the National Land Cover Data classification scheme.)

  • watershed – the area of land where all of the water that is under it or drains off of it goes into the same place (


The first question (Q1) is a larger-context structural question that focuses on the how humans use natural resources.

The second question (Q2) focuses more on the ecological processes and how humans both affect natural resource availability and in turn manage natural resources via policy.

Question 1. (STRUCTURE) How do people use Earth resources (landscapes, rivers, and estuaries)?

  • What are some considerations in deciding on how a region uses water resources for food (e.g., fishing, crabbing, etc), water supply (e.g., irrigation, drinking water reservoirs, etc) and/or energy (e.g., hydroelectric dams) ?

    • Do changes in employment within an area affect the health of the watershed? Or, conversely, could the health of the watershed affect the economy of an area in any way?

    • How do different uses of land, e.g. forested, agricultural, developed (residential/ commercial) impact the quality and/or health of water resources?

    • How does allocation of resources in different ways, affect the quality and health of the watershed? Example allocation of resources may include cutting down more/less trees for timber or agriculture, expanding agricultural LUs, drawing more water from streams.

    • What challenges might be associated with modifying this resource partitioning so that the ecological health of the watershed can be improved? What are some of the tradeoffs associated with using more or less resources and watershed/ stream health and quality?

  • How does change in land cover and land use, caused by humans (i.e. disturbance of the natural landscape) affect the watershed?

  • What are some ways of quantifying the impacts of human beings on water resources and land cover (e.g. vegetation) within the landscape?

    • How is land use measured and mapped?

    • Is there such a thing as an “optimal” land use for a given location?

    • How would you recommend engaging target communities to be more aware of  how their actions impact environmental resources and overall watershed health and quality (e.g. water quality / quantity, wildlife, ecosystem health, forest cover, etc) both in their home towns and over larger regions?

Question 2. (PROCESS / POLICY) What is the effect of the allocation of various land use types (e.g., forested / undeveloped, residential development, commercial development, industry, agriculture) on the overall watershed?

(hint: consider how policy may drive watershed health – consider the effects of allowing developed land use types – to be placed in close proximity to a stream or what the health of a  watershed that is mostly developed might be like compared to a watershed that is largely forested).

  • How might regulations that determine both the location of and the type of development that occurs  - influence water quality? (hint: think about how the density and distribution of agriculture vs residential vs undeveloped forested areas may influence water quality).

  • What are the main drivers of water quality given a particular land use type? Considering these drivers, how might policy target improved water quality within a given land use type?

    • What is the effect of different agricultural practices on water quality over time?

    • What is the effect of different urban / developed practices on water quality over time?

    • How might water quality vary between a developed compared to an undeveloped land use type?

  • How does stream temperature vary with varying adjacent land use and land cover types? (hint: consider a stream next to a forest vs a stream running through an urban area or a stream within a watershed that is mostly developed vs undeveloped). Considering this effect, how might policy target stream temperature issues?

    • How might changes in land cover and land use affect stream temperature?

    • Consider how stream temperature might varying with increased or decreased amounts of impervious land cover types (i.e., concrete, asphalt that is not able to absorb water in the way that grass or trees might)

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