Environmental Management

, Volume 34, Issue 1, pp 62–74

A Watershed-Scale Model for Predicting Nonpoint Pollution Risk in North Carolina

  • Kevin M. Potter
  • Frederick W. Cubbage
  • Gary B. Blank
  • Rex H. Schaberg
Research

DOI: 10.1007/s00267-004-0117-7

Cite this article as:
Potter, K., Cubbage, F., Blank, G. et al. Environmental Management (2004) 34: 62. doi:10.1007/s00267-004-0117-7

Abstract

The Southeastern United States is a global center of freshwater biotic diversity, but much of the region’s aquatic biodiversity is at risk from stream degradation. Nonpoint pollution sources are responsible for 70% of that degradation, and controlling nonpoint pollution from agriculture, urbanization, and silviculture is considered critical to maintaining water quality and aquatic biodiversity in the Southeast. We used an ecological risk assessment framework to develop vulnerability models that can help policymakers and natural resource managers understand the impact of land cover changes on water quality in North Carolina. Additionally, we determined which landscape characteristics are most closely associated with macroinvertebrate community tolerance of stream degradation, and therefore with lower-quality water. The results will allow managers and policymakers to weigh the risks of management and policy decisions to a given watershed or set of watersheds, including whether streamside buffer protection zones are ecologically effective in achieving water quality standards. Regression analyses revealed that landscape variables explained up to 56.3% of the variability in benthic macroinvertebrate index scores. The resulting vulnerability models indicate that North Carolina watersheds with less forest cover are at most risk for degraded water quality and steam habitat conditions. The importance of forest cover, at both the watershed and riparian zone scale, in predicting macrobenthic invertebrate community assemblage varies by geographic region of the state.

Nonpoint source pollutionEcological risk assessmentAquatic ecosystemsLand use planningWater qualityForest cover

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin M. Potter
    • 1
  • Frederick W. Cubbage
    • 1
  • Gary B. Blank
    • 1
  • Rex H. Schaberg
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of ForestryNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA
  2. 2.Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, Duke UniversityDurhamUSA