Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Linderman, Marc A.

First Committee Member

Linderman, Marc A.

Second Committee Member

Bennett, Dave A.

Third Committee Member

Basu, Nandita B.

Fourth Committee Member

Malanson, George P.

Fifth Committee Member

Sander, Heather A.


Intensive human-environment interactions are taking place in Midwestern agricultural systems. An integrated modeling framework is suitable for predicting dynamics of key variables of the socio-economic, biophysical, hydrological processes as well as exploring the potential transitions of system states in response to changes of the driving factors. The purpose of this dissertation is to address issues concerning the interacting processes and consequent changes in land use, water balance, and water quality using an integrated modeling framework. This dissertation is composed of three studies in the same agricultural watershed, the Clear Creek watershed in East-Central Iowa.

In the first study, a parsimonious hydrologic model, the Threshold-Exceedance-Lagrangian Model (TELM), is further developed into RS-TELM (Remote Sensing TELM) to integrate remote sensing vegetation data for estimating evapotranspiration. The goodness of fit of RS-TELM is comparable to a well-calibrated SWAT (Soil and Water Assessment Tool) and even slightly superior in capturing intra-seasonal variability of stream flow. The integration of RS LAI (Leaf Area Index) data improves the model's performance especially over the agriculture dominated landscapes. The input of rainfall datasets with spatially explicit information plays a critical role in increasing the model's goodness of fit.

In the second study, an agent-based model is developed to simulate farmers' decisions on crop type and fertilizer application in response to commodity and biofuel crop prices. The comparison between simulated crop land percentage and crop rotations with satellite-based land cover data suggest that farmers may be underestimating the effects that continuous corn production has on yields (yield drag). The simulation results given alternative market scenarios based on a survey of agricultural land owners and operators in the Clear Creek Watershed show that, farmers see cellulosic biofuel feedstock production in the form of perennial grasses or corn stover as a more risky enterprise than their current crop production systems, likely because of market and production risks and lock in effects. As a result farmers do not follow a simple farm-profit maximization rule.

In the third study, the consequent water quantity and quality change of the potential land use transitions given alternative biofuel crop market scenarios is explored in a case study in the Clear Creek watershed. A computer program is developed to implement the loose-coupling strategy to couple an agent-based land use model with SWAT. The simulation results show that watershed-scale water quantity (water yield and runoff) and quality variables (sediment and nutrient loads) decrease in values as switchgrass price increases. However, negligence of farmers risk aversions towards biofuel crop adoption would cause overestimation of the impacts of switchgrass price on water quantity and quality.


Agent-based model, Hydrologic model, Integrated modeling, Leaf area index, Water quality


x, 160 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 149-160).


Copyright 2014 Deng Ding

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