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Assessing Ecosystem Health in Rural Mixed Land-Use Watersheds

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  21st Century Watershed Technology: Improving Water Quality and Environment Conference Proceedings, 29 March - 3 April 2008, Concepcion, Chile  701P0208cd.(doi:10.13031/2013.24294)
Authors:   MC G Brisbois, R Jamieson, R Gordon, G Stratton, A Madani
Keywords:   nutrients, macroinvertebrates, agriculture, dissolved oxygen, delta method, stream ecosystems, BMP assessment

A paired stream approach was used to assess ecosystem health in two rural Nova Scotia streams with varying land use practices. The study sought to determine the feasibility of qualifying stream health using a few select parameters over a short sampling season. Continuous dissolved oxygen, water temperature and chlorophyll a data were collected. Nutrients, turbidity, pH and macroinvertebrate populations were also characterized. Diurnal dissolved oxygen data were analyzed to determine photosynthesis and respiration ratios. Macroinvertebrate data provided information on productivity, and on a number of other relevant metrics. Findings determined that agricultural land use generally led to high nutrient concentrations, large dissolved oxygen variability, turbid waters and impacted macroinvertebrate populations in. Forested land use demonstrated typically unimpacted conditions. Nutrients, dissolved oxygen data and macroinvertebrate metrics were deemed effective for providing a generalized assessment of stream health over a short time period. The study also determined that the Thomas Brook Watershed, an agricultural watershed which has been the subject of intensive remediation efforts since 2004, continues to be impacted and that remediation efforts and BMP implementation should continue.

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