State Water Resources Research Institute Program

Project ID: 2007MS62B
Title: Water Quality and Floristic Habitat Assessments in the Coldwater and Sunflower River Basins: Comparing traditional measures of water and habitat quality to Index of Biotic Integrity findings
Project Type: Research
Start Date: 3/01/2007
End Date: 2/29/2008
Congressional District: 3rd
Focus Categories: Wetlands, Water Quality, Management and Planning
Keywords: bioindicators, biomonitoring, invasive species, water quality, water quantity, wetlands
Principal Investigators: Tietjen, Todd; Ervin, Gary N. (Mississippi State University)
Federal Funds: $ 25,107
Non-Federal Matching Funds: $ 60,796
Abstract: This project will provide a quantitative ecological evaluation of water and habitat quality in the Coldwater and Sunflower River Basins in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley (LMAV). Portions of the Coldwater and Sunflower River Basins and their tributaries are listed on the EPA Section 303(d) list of Impaired Waterbodies of Mississippi. Currently there are efforts underway to determine least impaired reference conditions for streams and surface waters of the LMAV. In the past, water quality standards have relied upon narrative statements, as numerical standards for waterbodies of the LMAV have been difficult to establish because the highly erodable soils and extensive agricultural history prevented the determination of reference, unimpaired conditions. To overcome this difficulty, the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) and the US Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) have been collecting fish community information for streams of the Coldwater Basin. These data will be used to calculate Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) scores which will then be used to establish reference, stream quality assessments for these systems. While biotic measures of water quality have been used in other systems, it is unclear how the biological indicators will compare to more traditional measures of water and habitat quality. Data are needed that quantify the relationship between the biotic measures (IBI) of water quality and chemical and wetland habitat components to ensure appropriate standards are developed and implemented. The research we propose will provide data that will enable water district managers to be informed participants in forthcoming water quality standard development. Specifically it will inform the water managers as to: (1) the correlation between key traditional water quality measurements, reference stream quality, and IBI scores, (2) the seasonal variability in water quality at sites used for IBI reference development, and (3) an initial quantification and correlation of the biotic condition of riparian wetland habitats of the Coldwater and Sunflower River Basins. As such, this project will increase the efficacy with which water district managers can plan and implement programs to maintain and improve surface water quality, in an effort to balance societal and ecological needs.

Progress/Completion Report, PDF

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