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Effects of Urbanization on Stream Ecosystems (EUSE) Study


Watershed Information

Basin Characteristics Information, by watershed


Background

How do the hydrologic, geomorphic, chemical, and biological characteristics of stream ecosystems respond to land-use changes associated with urbanization, and how do these responses vary across environmental settings?

SPECIFIC OBJECTIVES:

  1. Determine the hydrological, geomorphic, chemical, habitat, and biological characteristics that respond to land-use changes associated with urbanization in specific environmental settings.

  2. Determine the most important landscape features influencing hydrological, chemical, geomorphic, habitat, and ecological responses to urbanization.

  3. Compare the hydrological, geomorphic, chemical, habitat, and biological responses to urbanization among a range of environmental settings.

  4. Determine the physical and chemical factors associated with biological responses and compare these physical and chemical factors across environmental settings.

  5. Develop empirical models to relate physical, chemical, and biological responses to landscape features associated with urbanization.

An investigation of the urban crescent from Raleigh to Winston-Salem N.C. is underway to study the relation between varying levels of urban intensity in drainage basins and in-stream water quality, measured by physical, chemical, and biological factors. Water quality has been sampled in 30 drainage basins that have similar natural (e.g., climate, elevation, soils) characteristics and represent a gradient of urban intensity.

The urban intensity of each basin is measured using an index that integrates information about the multiple dimensions of human influence on the urban landscape at the drainage basin scale. The index includes information about land cover, infrastructure, population, and socioeconomic characteristics. Some of the variables used in the index may also be important factors for explaining variations in water quality.

The gradient design used in the NAWQA Program to investigate the effects of urbanization is premised on two perspectives about water-quality.

First, instream water-quality is a composite of physical, chemical, and biological characteristics that are influenced by natural factors and by the human activities. Biological communities reflect the integration of these influences.

Second, landscape and stream characteristics reflect both the physical context of a basin and human influences. The character of the urban residential landscape, for example, can vary dramatically as socioeconomic factors - income, age of housing stock, levels of education - change among neighborhoods.

Investigation of the effects of urbanization on water quality must control for the effects of natural factors, while allowing the degree of urbanization to vary between study basins. By narrowing the focus the study to a single ecoregion, the North Carolina Piedmont, the investigation used a regional framework that enforces a measure of control over variability in natural factors that influence water-quality.

The data collected at streams in the study included nutrients, pesticides, and ions in stream water, geomorphic and habitat characteristics, hydrologic stage, water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, specific conductance, benthic algae and invertebrate communities, and fish communities.

Publications

Cuffney, T.F., 2003, User's manual for the National Water-Quality Assessment Program Invertebrate Data Analysis System (IDAS) software—Version 3: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 03-172, 103 p.

Cuffney, T.F., Grutz, M.E., and Meador, M.R., 1993, Guidelines for the processing and quality assurance of benthic invertebrate samples collected as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 93-407, 80 p.

Cuffney, T.F., Gurtz, M.E., and Meador, M.R., 1993, Methods for collecting benthic invertebrate samples as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 93-406, 66 p.

Cuffney, T.F., Meador, M.R., Porter, S.D., and Gurtz, M.E., 2000, Responses of physical, chemical, and biological indicators of water quality to a gradient of agricultural land use in the Yakima River Basin, Washington: Environmental Monitoring and Assessment v. 64, p. 259-270.

Cuffney, T.F., Meador, M.R., Porter, S.D., and Gurtz, M.E., 1997, Distribution of fish, benthic invertebrate, and algal communities in relation to physical and chemical conditions, Yakima River Basin, Washington, 1990: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 96-2480, 94 p.

McMahon, Gerard, 1995, The role of information in developing rational watershed management plans [abs.]: Geological Society of America, 1995 Fall Meeting, New Orleans, La.

McMahon, Gerard, and Cuffney, T.F., 2000, Quantifying urban intensity in drainage basins for assessing stream ecological conditions: Journal of the American Water Resources Association, v. 36, p. 1247-1261.

McMahon, Gerard, and Cuffney, T.F., 1999, A process for characterizing urban land-use intensity in drainage basin, in Sakrison, R., and Sturtevant, P. (eds.), Proceedings of the American Water Resources Association Annual conference Watershed Management to Protect Declining Species, Seattle, WA, December 5-9, 1999, p. 257-260.

Meador, M.R., Cuffney, T.F., and Gurtz, M.E., 1993, Methods for sampling fish communities as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 93-104, 40 p.

Meador, M.R., Hupp, C.R., Cuffney, T.F., and Gurtz, M.E., 1993, Methods for characterizing stream habitat as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 93-408, 48 p.

Moulton, S.R., Carter, J.L., Grotheer, S.A., and Cuffney, T.F., 2000, Methods for analysis by the U.S. Geological Survey National Water Quality Laboratory -- processing, taxonomy, and quality control of benthic macroinvertebrate samples: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 00-212, 49 p.

Porter, S.G., Cuffney, T.F., Gurtz, M.E., and Meador, M.R., 1993, Methods for collecting algal samples as part of the National Water-Quality Assessment Program: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 93-409, 39 p.


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