, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 145-167

Status assessment in acid-sensitive and non-acid-sensitive Maryland coastal planin streams using an integrated biological, chemical, physical, and land-use approach

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This study was designed to: (1) evaluate the ecological status of acid-sensitive and non acid-sensitive Maryland coastal plain streams using biological (Index of biotic Integrity [IBI] for fish), chemical and physical habitat conditions; (2) determine if a low IBI for coastal plain stream fish can be related to stream sensitivity from acidic inputs and (3) correlate land use activities and watershed size in the coastal plain streams with biological, chemical and physical conditions. IBI values obtained using 12 community metrics for Maryland coastal plain stream fish demonstrated that there were no significant differences in these values when acid-sensitive and non-acid-sensitive streams were compared. However, other complementary data in acid-sensitive streams such as absence of the acid-sensitive species, blacknose dace and higher numbers and biomass of tolerant species suggested that these streams may be impacted. IBI values were also found to be negatively correlated with various trace metals in acid-sensitive streams but not in non-acid-sensitive areas. Chemical conditions such as trace metals and nutrients were associated with land use activities. Highest concentrations of trace metals (chromium, nickel, and cadmium) were found in streams with the highest percentage of low residential housing. Nitrate concentrations were significantly higher in streams found in agricultural areas than in forested areas. Agriculturally dominated streams with highest nitrate concentrations (> 10 mg l-1) also contained the highest percentage of livestock feeding operations. The mean IBI score for streams draining agricultural land was higher than the mean value for forested streams when all streams were compared. However, when several streams that were only marginally forested (< 50%) were removed from the analysis, the IBI scores did not differ significantly by land use. Two physical habitat indices exhibited a strong associated with each other. Each habitat index also correlated with IBI values.