Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2016NH202B

Ecosystem Indicators for Freshwater Streams

Institute: New Hampshire
Year Established: 2016 Start Date: 2016-03-01 End Date: 2018-02-28
Total Federal Funds: $19,289 Total Non-Federal Funds: $41,913

Principal Investigators: Alison Watts

Abstract: This project will develop a pilot program for the use of attached algae as a water quality indicator in New Hampshire streams. We propose to couple cutting-edge genomic analysis with existing stream ecosystem and water quality monitoring programs to quantify macro- and micro- ecosystem response to land use and specific anthropogenic stressors. We will work with the NH Volunteer River Monitoring Program (VRAP) and the NHDES Long Term Trend Monitoring program to collect water samples at existing sites that span the state of New Hampshire. Water and algae will be collected and analyzed in tandem with these existing programs, and evaluated against statistical models of stressor-response relationships. Genomic analyses will be conducted by the Hubbard Center for Genome Studies (HCGS) at the University of New Hampshire. This project will build upon and expand a pilot study conducted by Dr. Watts and funded by the WRRC in 2015, and an algae assessment pilot study conducted by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) in 2006 (Trowbridge, 2008). The 2015 study collected periphyton and water chemistry from 15 locations in the Exeter and Lamprey River watersheds and from the Great Bay Estuary. Initial results from this study indicate that a) existing taxonomic and attribute classification methods can be used to distinguish between different aquatic conditions (e.g. salinity, high nutrient conditions); and b) genomic taxonomy provides a much greater range of species identification at lower cost. We propose to expand this pilot to develop a State-wide assessment at 40 stream locations currently sampled under existing NHDES programs, using genomic taxonomy to identify species. This study has two major objectives: (1) Pilot a periphyton sampling program to develop statistical correlations between causal parameters (including nutrients, land use and chloride) and periphyton species attributes for wadeable streams in New Hampshire; and (2) to assess the value of genomic analyses, with the potential to identify a much greater range of periphyton species, as an additional tool to evaluate the ecological health of streams.