Earth is a water planet. Water in the atmosphere, on land, and in the oceans sustains life and great biodiversity. However, the amount of renewable fresh water comprises only a small fraction of global water resources and the mismatch between the demand and supply is increasing, due to our growing population, technological advances, and global climate change. What will the Earths fresh water resources look like in the coming decades? Who will benefit from the anticipated changes and who will lose? Or are there win-win scenarios that could benefit everyone?
SAGE research focuses on answering these key questions by working from the physical principles of the water cycle, through in-depth understanding of the interrelationships between agricultural and fresh water systems, humans, climate and health, by providing an accurate view of disparate distribution of fresh water resources through physical and socioeconomic windows, and by developing computer models specifically suited for examining the impact of human activities on freshwater supplies across the globe. Our research benefit greatly from cross-campus linkages with the Center for Limnology, as well as departments of Geography, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Rural Sociology, Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences, and Computer Sciences, as well as other institutions in the US and around the world. Research funding for water studies is provided by NASA, NOAA, USAID, EPA, and DOE.
Because water issues are so intricately linked with agriculture and climate, SAGE research projects in these theme areas also support an understanding of global water resources. In particular, the Against the Grain project (Kucharik, Barford, Foley, and collaborators) and Patterns and Processes of the Global Agricultural System: Past, Present and Future (LeZaks, with Barford, Kucharik, and Foley) both have major water components, and highlight the interdependency of global sustainability goals.
Dr. Mutlu Ozdogan and his students focus on land-use/land-cover conversion and climate change impacts on the global water and energy cycles and how these impacts interact with ecosystem goods and services that are important to human well-being.
Dr. Carol Barford uses land-use and hydrological models to evaluate water-use scenarios and their effects on carbon, water and energy balances, and to develop decision-support tools for stakeholders in large river basins.
Dr. Jon Foley (now at the University of Minnesota), continues to lead a multiple SAGE research projects in agriculture, land use, and bioenergy, working with UW-Madison graduate students and post-docs.
Dr. Chris Kucharik investigates links between energy, agriculture, and water quality, including recent work on the impact of fertilizer use in the midwest on the "Dead Zone" of the Gulf of Mexico.
Dr. Jonathan Patz studies the public health impacts of environmental change, including waterborne-disease, and the impacts of climate change on water quality and beach closings in the Upper Midwestern U.S.
Students and Post-Docs
Climate and Management Drivers of Agricultural Productivity in Eastern Mediterranean Ozdogan is investigating the role of local management (fertilizer use, better seeds) versus global atmospheric teleconnections (North Atlantic Oscillation) on precipitation patterns and cereal productivity in Turkey and the Middle East using empirical evidence and Agro-IBIS, an advanced ecosystem model.
Climate Change, Rainfall/Runoff and Health Risks in the Great Lakes Region Jonathan Patz and Steve Vavrus from the Center for Climatic Research are working on an EPA-sponsored project Health Risks from Climate Variability and Change in the Upper Midwest: a Place-based Assessment of Climate-related Morbidity. Water contamination from extreme precipitation along with mid-century climate change scenarios for the state of Wisconsin is the main topic under investigation. This grant is in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services, and will the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).
Estimating the Effects of Changing Crop Management Practices on Climate and Crop Yield Ph.D. student Bill Sacks is investigating the effects of increased irrigation, shifts in planting and harvesting dates, and changing tillage practices on both regional climate and crop yield. Sacks is using a variety of vegetation and climate models, and is assembling new data sets of planting and harvesting dates. Work done in collaboration with Kucharik and Prof. Jon Foley (University of Minnesota). Funded by NSF.
Hydrological Costs of Forest Disturbance: An Integrated Modeling Framework Ozdogan and graduate student Alvin Rentsch are linking a forest ecosystem model (LANDIS-II) to a hydrological model (VIC) to investigate the two-way feedback between forest disturbance caused by insect defoliation, fire, as well as climate change and hydrologic fluxes in forested watersheds. Funding will be provided by Hatch Act Formula Funds through the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences.
Impacts of Biofuel-driven Changes in Land Use and Cover on Flows of Water, Carbon and Nutrients to Freshwaters Kucharik is collaborating with co-investigators of the North Temperate Lakes Long Term Ecological Research project to study how the changing distribution of croplands affect nutrient flux to freshwaters and the cycling of C in the terrestrial-aquatic system, as well as how alternative biofuel feedstocks other than corn grain might impact water quality, carbon sequestration, and climate regulation. The Agro-IBIS model is being used across the Yahara Lakes watershed in southern Wisconsin to address these questions. Funding is provided by the National Science Foundation.
Impacts of Historical and Future Changes in Climate and Atmospheric CO2 on Terrestrial Ecosystem Structure and Functioning in the Midwestern U.S. Kucharik is collaborating with Prof. John Lenters at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to and Prof. Tracy Twine at the University of Minnesota to understand how past and anticipated (1948-2100) changes in agricultural land management, climate, and atmospheric CO2 have affected and will affect ecosystem structure and functioning in the Midwest U.S. region. The goals are to quantify changes in regional-scale carbon, water, and energy cycling, highlighting shifts in potential vegetation distribution and the availability of ecosystem goods and services (e.g., crop yields, forest/grassland productivity, and freshwater availability). The approach uses a Dynamic Global Vegetation Model (DGVM; Agro-IBIS), which includes detailed representation of agro-ecosystems for the U.S. Funding from the Department of Energys National Institute on Climate Change Research (NICCR).
Introducing Remotely Sensed Irrigation Information into the USDA FAS Decision Support System In partnership with USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), Ozdogan and graduate student Tim Wallace are developing irrigated area datasets for the Middle East and South Africa using remote sensing to improve FAS area production estimates. Funding is provided by NASAs Application Sciences Program.
Investigating the Relationship Between Land Use/Land Cover Change, Hydrologic Cycle, and Climate in Semi-Arid Central Asia In collaboration with the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography in PRC, Ozdogan and his students are processing satellite data to map changes in agricultural area, implementing a simple evapotranspiration model, and testing a groundwater model specifically suited for predicting the locations of recharge and discharge areas in semi-arid Central Asia.
Monitoring the Water Cycle in the Arab Region Using NASA Satellite and Data Assimilating Model Technology As a Co-Investigator in a joint NASA-USAID project, Ozdogan aids the development of a Land Data Assimilation System (LDAS) for the Arab region. His specific role is to assemble an up-to-date database of irrigated area and crop types to drive a suite of advanced land surface models, with the goal of providing optimal estimates of hydrological states and fluxes relevant to water resources in the region.
PEGASUS (Predicting Ecosystem Goods And Services Under Scenarios) A fast-form simulation model designed to explore multiple land and water-use scenarios and their effects on carbon, water and energy balances (Barford).
Role of Irrigated Croplands in North American Hydroclimatic Regimes Ozdogan and his colleagues at NASA GSFC are quantifying the effects of cropland irrigation on water and energy cycle variables over North America. Funded by NOAA, the goal of this research is to investigate irrigations influences on the land-atmosphere interactions at regional scales with an eye towards improved initialization of land surface moisture and energy states in numerical weather prediction models.
Water for Tomorrow A collaborative effort of The Nature Conservancy, IBM, and SAGE. Water for Tomorrow is a web-based decision support system for stakeholders in large river basins; Barford is the project's lead land surface and hydrology modeler.