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Products > Ecosystem Health > Health of Aquatic Communities

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thumbnail new Smart-Phone Technology Helps Protect Salmon Habitat in Washington State –USGS, in cooperation with Seattle Public Utilities, embedded high-tech sensors typically found in devices such as smart phones into a new type of equipment to monitor riverbed movements that can help protect spawning habitat for endangered salmon. The new method is published in the Journal of Hydrology. Scientists took the high-tech sensors, also referred to as “accelerometers,” coupled with data-logging circuits, and placed them in tubes that were then buried in the Cedar River’s grovel in 26 salmon-spawning locations. (Read more about USGS activities in Washington).

 

thumbnail new Nutrient Enriched Groundwater Contributes to Excessive Algal Growth in Fish Creek, Wyoming –USGS, in cooperation with the Teton Conservation District, analyzed groundwater flow and streamflow, and collected water, aquatic insect, and algal samples from 2007 to 2011 to characterize the stream and to compare data to neighboring rivers and streams. The study found greater growth of algae and other aquatic plants in Fish Creek than in nearby rivers and streams. This excess algae is related to the influx of nutrients—orthophosphate and nitrate—to the stream from groundwater. Sources of nutrients to the groundwater include septic tanks, sewage treatment plants, animal confinement areas, and lawn fertilizer. Because groundwater discharge into Fish Creek is such a large percentage of flow in the stream, such nutrient inputs are ultimately affecting rapid growth of algae and large aquatic plants in the summer and fall in Fish Creek, which, in turn, results in declining species of aquatic insects such as the caddsifly and mayfly. (Press Release)

 

thumbnail Water Quality Affects Aquatic Health in Urban Streams in Kansas City and Independence, Missouri –USGS, in cooperation with the City of Independence, Missouri Water Pollution Control Department, used macroinvertebrate populations as an indicator of stream health in downstream areas of the Blue River and Little Blue River basins, which are both affected by urban development. Differences were noted in aquatic-life status because of effects of stormwater, wastewater discharges, and upstream reservoirs. (Technical announcement; Report)

 

thumbnail Online Screening Tool for New Water Withdrawals in Michigan –The State of Michigan ratified the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact on July 9, 2008, and under the Compact, agreed to develop implementation legislation to prevent adverse resource impacts of water withdrawals on the ecosystems and watersheds within the Basin. Through cooperative science projects, USGS, in cooperation with the State of Michigan and Michigan State University, provides science to support to the state in the development of an innovative water-withdrawal assessment process and on-line screening tool for new or increased water withdrawals (On-line screening tool). This process combines ungaged-flow estimation, a statewide ecological flow classification of streams, estimation of streamflow depletion by wells, and ecological-response curves describing the potential impact of water withdrawals on characteristic fish populations within a legislative and management framework.

 

thumbnail Environmental Flow Studies in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia –USGS, in cooperation with the Central Shenandoah Valley Planning District Commission, the Northern Shenandoah Valley Regional Commission, and Virginia Commonwealth University, examined the instream flow needs of aquatic organisms of the South Fork and North Fork Rivers. Consistent model output and a range of scenarios are presented to Valley planners and water-resource managers regarding current and future water resources in the basin, the availability of water for fish habitat, recreation, and the potential effects of withdrawals and conservation measures on fish populations.  For example, a key finding from the recent South Fork study suggests that for normal or wet years, increased water withdrawals are not likely to correspond with extensive habitat loss for game fish or nongame fish. During drought years, however, a 20- to 50-percent increase in water withdrawals may result in below normal habitat availability for game fish throughout the river and nongame fish in the upper and middle sections of the river. These simulations of rare historic drought conditions, such as those observed in the Valley in 2002 serve as a baseline for development of ecological flow thresholds for drought planning.  (Studies available at: http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2012/5081 and http://pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2006/5025/.)

 

thumbnail Low Flow Management in northeast Kaua'I, Hawai'i –USGS, in cooperation with the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Hawaiian Home Lands, assessed the availability and distribution of natural low flow in Anahola Stream in northeast Kaua'i, Hawai'i, which supports agricultural, domestic, and cultural uses within its drainage basin.  Biological surveys were conducted as part of the study to determine the distribution of native and nonnative aquatic stream fauna. The report summarizes scenarios that describe (1) surface-water availability under regulated conditions of Anahola Stream if the upper and lower intakes are restored in the future; and (2) amount of flow available for agricultural use at the upper intake under a variety of potential instream-flow standards that may be established by the State of Hawaiʻi for the protection of instream uses. (Full report)

 

thumbnail Macroinvertebrate Index of Biotic Integrity in Pennsylvania streams –USGS has worked with the Chester County Water Resources Agency in Chester County, Pennsylvania for more than 40 years to assess water quality using benthic-macroinvertebrates and water chemistry as indicators. A benthic macroinvertebrate Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) was developed based on the historical data collected under base-flow conditions (every Fall) during the long-term program. A USGS report summarizes conditions over the last decade (1998-2009). . Major factors that were found to affect macroinvertebrate scores are nutrient concentrations, habitat conditions, and percent of wooded and urban land use. Chester County encompasses 760 square miles in southeastern Pennsylvania and has a rapidly expanding population. Land-use change has occurred in response to this continual growth, as open space, agricultural lands, and wooded lands have been converted to residential and commercial lands. This study is integrated with other activities used to measure and describe water resources in the County, providing the County with information it needs for sound water-resources management.

 

thumbnail Development of Invertebrate Indexes of Stream Quality for the Islands of Maui and Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi –USGS, in cooperation with the State of Hawaiʻi Department of Health, developed an invertebrate community index (ICI) for the Islands of Maui and O'ahu that could be used as an indicator of stream quality. The macroinvertebrate community data were used to identify metrics that could best differentiate among sites according to disturbance gradients such as embeddedness, percent fines (silt and sand areal coverage), or percent agricultural land in the contributing basin area. Environmental assessments were conducted using land-use/land-cover data and reach-level physical habitat data. This ICI is the beginning of a statewide ICI that is intended to help identify broad problem areas so that the Hawaii State Department of Health (HIDOH) can prioritize their efforts on a statewide scale. Once these problem areas are identified, the island-wide ICIs can be used to more accurately assess the quality of individual stream reaches so that the HIDOH can prioritize their efforts on the most impaired streams. (Full report)

 

thumbnail Peak-Flow and Stream Ecology Management of the Cedar River, Washington –USGS, in cooperation with Seattle Public Utilities, assessed the linkages between high-flow events, geomorphic response, and effects on stream ecology in the gravel-bedded Cedar River in Washington. High flows can deleteriously affect salmon embryos incubating in the streambed gravels. Recorded accelerometer disturbances, combined with a two-dimensional hydrodynamic model, allowed the prediction of streambed disturbance at the burial depth of Chinook and sockeye salmon egg pockets for different peak discharges. Insight gained from these analyses led to the development of suggested monitoring metrics for an ongoing geomorphic monitoring program on the Cedar River. (Full report)

 

thumbnail Sediment in Puget Sound Rivers, Washington –USGS studies show that roughly enough sediment to fill a football field to the height of six Space Needles is delivered into the Puget Sound each year through a complex delivery network of rivers. Paradoxically, river sediment is both a benefit and a threat to ecosystems and people. Adequate amounts of sediment are needed for beaches, deltas, and other coastal habitats that aquatic species need, including those on which people depend. But excessive amounts of sediment can stress aquatic species by transporting contaminants or burying vegetation. Sedimentation within rivers can also increase flood risk. (USGS Fact Sheet; Technical announcement)

 

thumbnail Estimates of Low Summer Flows Help Fish, Habitat in Western Washington –USGS, in cooperation with the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and its member tribes performed low-flow surveys in small western Washington streams that are not currently part of a regional streamflow-monitoring network. Findings show that low summer streamflows during the driest years--particularly in streams without flow gages--can be estimated using relatively inexpensive methods and allow understanding of low flows even where and when we do not have the resources to measure them directly. Scientists are using this information to better understand low summer flows in specific streams, as well as to improve low-flow models for the region. Low flows in streams are essential for maintaining connectivity for fish migration and nutrient transport. (Report; Press release)

 

thumbnail Effects of water use and land use on fish communities in Boston, Massachusetts –USGS, in cooperation with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs Department of Conservation and Recreation, developed a watershed model and fish-habitat analysis of the Sudbury-Assabet Basin, a semi-urbanized metro-Boston basin, which shows effects of water use and land use on fish communities and simulates effects of 2030 water use and land use on streamflow.

 

thumbnail Aquatic insect communities in Autauga Creek Watershed, Autauga, Alabama –A cooperative study with the Alabama Clean Water Partnership evaluated aquatic insect (or “macroinvertebrate”) families within the orders of Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera at sites sampled in 2009 in the Autauga Creek Watershed and compared them to those found a decade earlier during a 1999 survey (at which time the creek was placed on the Alabama Department of Environmental Management 303(d) list). (USGS Scientific Investigations Report 2011-1027).

 

thumbnail Nutrients and relations to biological communities in western Wyoming –USGS, in cooperation with the Teton Conservation District, characterized nutrients, habitat, and biological communities in Fish Creek, a tributary to the Snake River, in Teton County in western Wyoming. The study helps to address public concern about nuisance growth of aquatic plants in Fish Creek, which has been increasing in recent years. (Full report)

 

thumbnail Recreational flow releases in New York –The USGS, in cooperation with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and Cornell University, characterized the potential effects of recreational-flow releases from Lake Abanakee on natural resources in the Indian and Hudson Rivers. The USGS report shows that the releases generally had a limited effect on fish and macroinvertebrate communities in the Indian River and had no effect on communities in the Hudson River.

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