Where rivers are born: the scientific imperative for defending small streams and wetlands

350 210 Stroud Water Research Center

Meyer, J.L., L.A. Kaplan, J.D. Newbold, D.L. Strayer, C.J. Woltemade, J.B. Zedler, R. Beilfuss, Q. Carpenter, R. Semlitsch, M.C. Watzin, and P.H. Zedler. 2003. Published by Sierra Club and American Rivers.

Download PDF


Our nation’s network of rivers, lakes and streams originates from a myriad of small streams and wetlands, many so small they do not appear on any map. Yet these headwater streams and wetlands exert critical influences on the character and quality of downstream waters. The natural processes that occur in such headwater systems benefit humans by mitigating flooding, maintaining water quality and quantity, recycling nutrients, and providing habitat for plants and animals. This paper summarizes the scientific basis for understanding that the health and productivity of rivers and lakes depends upon intact small streams and wetlands.


NSF Award No. DEB-0096276. Title: LTREB: Stream ecosystem structure and function within a maturing deciduous forest. Duration: August 1998–July 2003. Principal Investigator: L. A. Kaplan. Co-principal investigators: B. W. Sweeney, T. L. Bott, J. D. Newbold, J.K. Jackson, and L. J. Standley.