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Effects of Urbanization on Stream Ecosystems

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Stream with low level of urban intensity.


Stream with moderate level of urban intensity.


Stream with high level of urban intensity.

Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wisconsin

Milwaukee and Green Bay information sheet (2 pg PDF, 2.85 Mb)

This information sheet highlights selected findings of a comprehensive assessment by the National Water-Quality Assessment Program of the U.S. Geological Survey of the effects of urban development on stream ecosystems in nine metropolitan study areas. These are a few of the findings from the study in the Milwaukee and Green Bay Metropolitan Area.

Prepared for November 30, 2012 Congressional briefing

Study design:

Thirty sites were selected with drainage basin areas between about 4 to 46 square miles (11 to 119 square kilometers) and located in areas of clayey surficial deposits and sand and gravel substrates. The land use gradient went primarily from agriculture to urban. Sites represented a broad range of urban intensity from low to high.

Landcover, urban intensity, and site locations

Time of study:

Site selection in 2003.
Data collection from fall 2003 to fall 2004.

General Description:

The Milwaukee and Green Bay study area is located in Wisconsin in the Great Lakes Region, USA. Major cities included Milwaukee, Green Bay, Racine, and Appleton, Wisconsin. The 2000 population in the Milwaukee-Racine Census Metropolitan Area was about 1.7 million, a 5.1% increase from the 1990 Census and in the Green Bay Metropolitan Area the 2000 population was 0.2 million, a 16.5% increase from 1990 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2000).

The study area is in the Southeastern Wisconsin Tilled Plains ecoregion (Omernik 1987), where vegetation types are a mixture of hardwood forest (north), oak savannas (west) and tall-grass prairies (south). Land surface is characterized by outwash plains, lacustrine basins, and level to rolling till plains. Dairy and livestock farming represents the dominant land use in the region (Peters, 1997). Elevation in the study area ranges from about 574 to 1,214 feet (175 to 370 meters) above sea level (U.S. Geological Survey, 2005).

The climate is cool and humid with mean annual temperature of 45.5 degrees Fahrenheit (7.5 degrees Celsius) and mean annual precipitation of 33 inches (85 centimeters)(Daymet, 2005). Most of the precipitation occurs primarily between May and September.

Highest streamflows occur in March through May as a result of snowmelt and lowest streamflows occur in summer. Streams in this region support warm-water biological communities.

For more information about the study area —

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