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Effects of land use on water quality and aquatic biota of three North Carolina Piedmont streams

Effects of land use on water quality and aquatic biota of three North Carolina Piedmont streams

Hydrobiologia 294(3): 185-199

ISSN/ISBN: 0018-8158

DOI: 10.1007/bf00021291

Three streams in the Piedmont ecoregion of North Carolina were studied to evaluate the effect of land use (forested, agricultural, urban) on water quality and aquatic biota. In comparison with the forested stream, there were few changes in water quality at the agricultural and urban streams. Suspended-sediment yield was greatest for the urban catchment and least at the forested catchment. Suspended-sediment concentrations during storm events followed this same pattern, but at low-moderate flows suspended-sediment concentrations were greatest at the agricultural site. Most nutrient concentrations were highest at the agricultural site, and the amount of 'available' dissolved nitrogen was elevated at both the urban and agricultural sites. High concentrations of metals (totals) in the water column were sometimes observed at all sites, but maximum average concentrations were recorded at the urban site (especially Cr, Cu, and Pb). Maximum sediment metal concentrations, however, were not found at the urban site, but were usually recorded at the forested site. Only minor differences were noted between fish communities of the forested and agricultural sites, although both abundance and average size of some species increased at the agricultural site. The fish community at the urban site was characterized by low species richness, low biomass, and the absence of intolerant species. Invertebrate taxa richness, a biotic index, and the number of unique invertebrate species (found at only one site) indicated moderate stress (Fair water quality) at the agricultural site and severe stress (Poor water quality) at the urban site. At the agricultural site, declines in taxa richness within intolerant groups were partially offset by increases within tolerant groups. The agricultural stream had the highest abundance values, indicating enrichment. The urban site, however, was characterized by low species richness for most groups and very low abundance values. Analysis of seasonal patterns suggested detritus was the most important food source for invertebrates in the forested stream, while periphyton was of greater importance in the agricultural stream. Dominant macroinvertebrate groups shifted from Ephemeroptera at the forested site, to Chironomidae at the agricultural site, and Oligochaeta at the urban site. There was little between-site overlap in dominant species (8-17%), indicating that land use strongly influenced the invertebrate community. Chemical and physical parameters measured at the three sites did not seem sufficient to account for all of the observed differences in the invertebrate communities, suggesting some unmeasured toxicity. Biological measurements, especially macroinvertebrates community structure, consistently indicated strong between-site differences in water and habitat quality.

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Accession: 002822895

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