UTSA Professor Receives 2021 ESA Award for Environmental Impact Study

Updated: Apr 19, 2021

As climate studies continue to dominate the national conversation, a UTSA professor and his team of 10 environmental scientists conducted an important study with key findings on the negative impact large cities have on the environment, specifically on surrounding rivers and streams.

Matthew Troia, assistant professor of environmental science at UTSA, and department researchers submitted findings published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, and received recognition from the Ecological Society of Americas (ESA). Troila and his fellow authors were given the 2021 Sustainability Award based on the demonstrated novel approach to integrating ecosystem and social sciences, embodying the mission of the award.

Troia and his team’s findings reported the negative environmental impact of cities across the United States, including ways large cities have significantly altered at least 7% of streams, and the habitats of over 60% of North America’s fish, mussel, and crayfish species. Further, their research illustrated how city infrastructures have contributed to local extinctions in 260 species and currently influence 970 indigenous species, 27% of which are classified at risk.

“The primary finding is that the energy requirements from cities are impacting freshwater biodiversity,” Troia said. “With cities expanding outward, we’re changing the land use. Every bit of the landscape is by definition part of a watershed, so rain falling on the landscape is going to end up in a stream or river and runoff from the city is going to impact streams, rivers and the species living in them.”

As an ever-evolving state experiencing unprecedented growth and expansion, Troia’s research casts a spotlight on most Texas cities and their biodiversity issues, particularly along the I-35 corridor. “My job as an ecology professor at UTSA is to teach the next generation on how losing biodiversity is going to have negative impacts on humanity,” Troia said. “If we see spring-associated fish or salamanders in Central Texas starting to decline, that might be an indicator we’re using too much water or we’re altering the quality of the water. Both are really going to affect people because we really rely on water, particularly in semi-arid places like Texas.”