Environmental studies and Forestry

A Problem in Land-Use Planning: Expanded Agricultural Production vs. Protection/Enhancement of Neighbouring Wetlands
May 3, 2016
You are a member of a multidisciplinary Provincial Commission, charged with the responsibility of assessing alternative proposed uses of land use in and around a wetland area on the north shore of Lake Erie. The wetland area and its watershed are similar to those of Rondeau Bay, Chatham-Kent, Ontario, with regard to topography, climate, the distribution of a plant cover, relations between surface water and ground water, geological setting, and the main patterns of land use. In recent decades, there has been steady removal of woodlots between the agricultural land and the wetland area. The land-use options to be assessed are (1) expansion of existing agricultural practices through the removal of the remaining woodlot cover near the wetlands and (2) protection/ enhancement of the wetlands through restoration and expansion of the woodlot cover at the expense of some agricultural production.
Those in favour of expanded agricultural development draw attention to the worldwide need for increased corn production, which would bring benefit to the local economy. They show an awareness of the environmental problems, posed by soil erosion and the increased use of fertilizers and pesticides. They plan to reduce these problems by introducing new strategies in planting/harvesting and hill-slope modification. They also note that there are plans to greatly expand livestock production in the area in order to meet the growing demand for meat and milk. They want to expand the area under agricultural production by removing the remaining woodlots in the vicinity of the wetlands. They point out that some of the main problems in the wetland area in recent years have resulted from elevated levels of the Great Lakes and the use of chemical pesticides to combat invasive plant species.
People, who see agricultural expansion as a threat to the continued existence of the wetlands, say that in recent years, the removal of woodlots in the surrounding area has exposed the wetlands to a major increase in pollution, resulting from the erosion of a greater area of agricultural land by water and wind. They say that contamination of the wetlands by eroded soil and agricultural chemicals has caused a decline in some rare plant species and that expanded livestock development and its contribution to the contamination of surface waters would only make matters worse. They say that warming associated with global climate change is likely to increase the erosion of land by water and wind. They want to restore and expand the former woodlot areas adjacent to the wetlands that in recent years were taken over by farmers. They regard the wetland area as an important ecosystem, which under natural circumstances performs the service of water purification – through a combination of physical, chemical and biological processes – and also serves as an area for human recreation.
They take the view that the local wetlands should be preserved and if necessary enhanced to protect the quality of water in the adjacent lake.
The Commission Chairman requires you to submit a short (10 pages of double-spaced typing, plus summary, references, tables, and diagrams) report on your assessment of the probable, environmental effects of the alternative approaches to land use under consideration and possible alternatives to them, including the “do-nothing” option. Chapter headings should be as follows, in the precise order given: Summary (250- 300 words only); Structuring the Problem (problem definition, background information, objectives/ measures of effectiveness); Alternative Solutions (explain in detail what each option for land use will involve, with particular reference to the background information); Analysis of Alternative Solutions (what are the positive and negative consequences of each possible solution to the problem, in terms of the objectives/ measures of effectiveness?); Evaluation (which of the possible solutions is most acceptable and why?); and References (an alphabetical listing by author of all of the published works, including Web documents, cited by you in the text). You should cite your references in the text by name of author(s) and date. Do not use footnotes. Tables and diagrams should be located at the end of the report in an Appendix. PLEASE USE YOUR OWN WORDS THROUGHOUT THE REPORT. The last date for submission of the report as an electronic file (size should not exceed 500 KB) to the Dropbox on the Course Website.
Dept. of Earth & Environmental Sciences University of Windsor
Please start the project sooner, rather than later. You need to reach related parts of the course subject matter, before attempting the bulk of the report. This is a serious consideration, because not only the specific subject matter is needed; everything leading up to that part of the course must be covered, if you are to benefit from the project. However, it is possible to make a meaningful start on the project very early in the semester, by following a few simple guidelines.
Please begin by researching the “real-world” location that has been identified as being “similar” to the hypothetical project area. Existing land-use patterns are of major importance, as are topography, climate, vegetation cover, general geology, and any possible relationship between surface water and ground water; in short, anything likely to exert an influence on and also be affected by the proposed land use that is the basis for the problem.
Please note that there is no flexibility at all, concerning chapter headings in your report. This is because each chapter heading corresponds to the name of a step in a systematic approach to decision analysis. The project is about environmental problem-solving. A format of this kind provides the most systematic approach to getting the job done. So, the rationale for finding a solution to the problem becomes a plan for report writing, too.
The first chapter is STRUCTURING THE PROBLEM and can be tackled right away. The following are suggestions only, but should prove helpful. A useful start is Problem Definition: basically much of what is given in the project outline, but condensed to a smaller number of your own words. Next there is Background Information, which is the research on the “real-world” location, outlined in paragraph 2 above. Finally, a section titled Measures of Effectiveness addresses the all-important question: “How will we know that we have succeeded, when it happens?”
Possible measures of effectiveness are: ● minimizecostsoftheoperation,
● promoteimprovementstohealthofthelocalpopulation, ● promoteimprovementstothelocaleconomy,
● minimizeadverseeffectsontheenvironment,asawhole;and
● achieve a politically acceptable solution.
You will note that these are different objectives; they would lend themselves to quantification in fairly obvious ways, if this were a “real-world” exercise in environmental problem solving, although such an approach is beyond the scope of our activities.
TOPIC: 03-66-213-91 TERM PROJECT (2)
The previous topic dealt with completion of the first chapter (STRUCTURING THE PROBLEM) of the project report at an early stage of getting to grips with the subject matter of the course. This second set of tips, concerning the term project, continues the theme of a rational approach to environmental problem-solving by addressing the question of how to write the remaining chapters, accounting for the bulk of the report.
 SYNTHESIS OF ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS has to do with the full range of possible land-use alternatives, presented in the project outline. You should describe what each land- use scenario would involve. As well, please remember that failure to implement any new land-use strategy implies the probable continuation of existing practices – unless you recommend otherwise – and that these too will produce an environmental impact, which should be assessed in the light of the proposed changes under consideration.
 ANALYSIS OF ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS involves careful consideration of each proposed land use (including the land-use practices currently in place) in the light of the measures of effectiveness, identified in the first chapter. In effect, this step requires you to catalogue all possible impacts, both beneficial and otherwise, for the land-use alternatives that are under consideration for the hypothetical project area.
 EVALUATION is a compilation of the most advantageous, beneficial aspects of the alternative solutions and the least detrimental, negative consequences, again using the measures of effectiveness as a frame of reference. This listing is developed in support of your recommendation on the approach to land use that is most appropriate to both the resource endowment and environmental limitations of the project area.
Increased familiarity with a rational approach to decision-making, arising from the term project, is a “value-added” element of the course. It has potential for widespread use in every activity of daily life, in which you are required to find a solution to a problem.
Please note that you are required to provide a SUMMARY, 250 to 300 words in length, at the beginning. It should outline your findings from each of the main chapters of the report.
You should include a list of REFERENCES, an alphabetical listing by author of all works, cited in your text. USE YOUR OWN WORDS THROUGHOUT THE REPORT.
….fs/66-213S16 course project tips
Here are alternative examples: “This thing was described (Smith, 2012).” and “Smith (2012) described this thing.”

In the REFERENCES section:

Smith, T.E., 2012. Title of article. Name of Journal, volume, pages XXX- YYY.

You should give the date for when you consulted a Web article.