Using Long-Term Chemical and Biological Indicators to Assess Stream Health in the Upper Oconee River Watershed
Mattsson, B. J.
Kominoski, J. S.
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Macroinvertebrates are commonly used as biological indicators of stream habitat and water quality. Chemical variables, such as dissolved oxygen (DO), specific conductance (SC), and turbidity are used to measure stream water quality. Many aquatic macroinvertebrates are sensitive to changes in water chemistry, and streams with degraded water quality are often characterized by low macroinvertebrate diversity. Chemical (DO, SC, turbidity) and biological (macroinvertebrates) data from multiple tributaries of the North and Middle Oconee Rivers in Clarke County, Georgia, USA were collected seasonally from 2000 – 2006. Macroinvertebrates were identified, and communities were scored using the Georgia Adopt-AStream biotic index. Significant differences in biotic index scores were identified across sites and time using a two-way ANOVA. A general linear model relating chemical variables to biological score was more parsimonious than a model without chemical variables. These relationships varied by sample site, but they were consistent across seasons and years. Macroinvertebrate communities became degraded with increasing specific conductance, but associations with the other chemical variables were unclear. Results suggest the importance of using long-term chemical and biological indices in assessing stream health.