Buried alive: potential consequences of burying headwater streams in drainage pipes
Meyer, Judy L.
Poole, Geoffrey C.
Jones, Krista L.
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We investigated the potential impact of a Georgia regulation that allows individual landowners to encase 200-ft sections of small (<25 gal/min mean annual flow) headwater trout streams in buried drainage pipes. In the Blue Ridge physiographic province in North Georgia, 41% of privately held lands drain into these small streams. Hence this regulation applies to a large fraction of the mountain landscape. Small headwater streams in this region have a diverse aquatic biota (~30 taxa) indicating good water quality (10-14 EPT taxa), even though some of the streams are intermittent. Aquatic insects drifting downstream provide food for drift-feeding fishes such as trout. Insect drift immediately downstream from a buried reach was predominantly oligochaetes, indicative of poor water quality, whereas there were 5-6 EPT taxa in the drift from forested headwaters. Burying streams in pipes eliminates aquatic habitat. The impact of this regulation depends upon how widely it is applied, but it has the potential to impact a significant fraction of aquatic habitat in the headwaters of Georgia's trout streams.