Stream Biotic Health and Land Cover in the Soque River Watershed
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The Soque River Watershed Partnership received CWA §319 funding to perform a comprehensive baseline assessment of the biological, chemical, and physical health of the watershed. Certain stream segments in the Soque basin violate State water quality standards for bacteria and sediments. The assessment is designed to identify and prioritize areas for both protection and remediation. Rapid bioassessment protocols were used to collect macroinvertebrate samples at 19 stream sites in the watershed. Samples were collected during a late fall / winter index period over two years (2005-2006). Benthic data were analyzed to evaluate biotic integrity using a multimetric index designed for the Southern Inner Piedmont (Level IV Ecoregion 45a). Results indicate strong relationships between stream biotic health and land cover in the catchments evaluated. Urbanization and increased development were most strongly correlated with low biotic index scores and poor instream and riparian habitat in the study area. Data from the assessment will be used by Partnership members to develop a watershed protection plan to aid localities and citizens in making decisions about the use of water resources in the watershed. The goal is to integrate the findings and recommendations from the assessment into decision-making processes that shape the future of the Soque River basin.