New Book on Managing Agricultural Landscapes of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers

16th August 2016

An Iowa State University faculty member has co-authored a book on the subject examining the complex and ever-changing Mississippi and Ohio rivers’ landscapes.

Dr. Lois Wright Morton, professor of sociology, along with her colleague Dr. Ken Olson, University of Illinois, professor of soil science, have co-authored over 20 feature journal articles on the effects of climate extremes including flooding and droughts in the Mississippi and Ohio River basins, and recently released their book, Managing Mississippi and Ohio River Landscapes, published by the Soil and Water Conservation Society.

Lois Wright Morton observes, “It is well recognized that managing river landscapes involves a great deal of engineering as well as the physical and natural sciences. However, often overlooked is the human factor-the patterns of civilization, human and social decisions and actions that underlie the remaking of the natural environment to reflect human values and aspirations.”  Day-to-day decisions on floodplain and upland land uses have immediate and longer term effects on river systems and society; and are iterative in nature.  Change is constant and rivers and their landscapes are dynamic and ever changing. 

Climate change, population growth, global food insecurity, water scarcity, water quality, and soil erosion are key themes throughout the book.  Through a series of engaging case studies accompanied by 212 color illustrative maps and photographs, the book reviews historical impacts of climate, westward settlement of the US, economic and population growth, and efforts to manage river landscapes with engineered structures; and makes recommendations on future management to protect soil and water resources and facilitate social, economic, and ecosystem balance. Each chapter of the book is a case study from which much can be learned from past decisions, catastrophic events, and preparing for continuous change in the river landscape. 

Lois Wright Morton asserts these river systems have an enormous potential to meet many of society’s needs into the future.  River navigation, flood management, economic prosperity, ecological integrity, social well-being, and cultural diversity represent the many faces of managing these river systems. 

She says, “As we enter the 21st Century, how we view, value and invest in the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and their landscapes will affect the economic, social, and ecological well-being of the U.S  This book is an engaging and easily accessible resource for private and public landowners and managers, farmers managing  leveed agricultural lands, soil scientists, conservationists, sociologists, wetland specialists, hydrologists, geologists, and those interested in the future of river landscapes.