Environmental Management

, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 1287–1300 | Cite as

A Rapid Method to Score Stream Reaches Based on the Overall Performance of Their Main Ecological Functions

  • David K. Rowe
  • Stephanie Parkyn
  • John Quinn
  • Kevin Collier
  • Chris Hatton
  • Michael K. Joy
  • John Maxted
  • Stephen Moore


A method was developed to score the ecological condition of first- to third-order stream reaches in the Auckland region of New Zealand based on the performance of their key ecological functions. Such a method is required by consultants and resource managers to quantify the reduction in ecological condition of a modified stream reach relative to its unmodified state. This is a fundamental precursor for the determination of fair environmental compensation for achieving no-net-loss in overall stream ecological value. Field testing and subsequent use of the method indicated that it provides a useful measure of ecological condition related to the performance of stream ecological functions. It is relatively simple to apply compared to a full ecological study, is quick to use, and allows identification of the degree of impairment of each of the key ecological functions. The scoring system was designed so that future improvements in the measurement of stream functions can be incorporated into it. Although the methodology was specifically designed for Auckland streams, the principles can be readily adapted to other regions and stream types.


Mitigation Compensation Ecological value No-net-loss Stream restoration 



We thank Mike McMurtry and Joanne Wilks of the Auckland Regional Council for their assistance with fieldwork and Ngaire Phillips at NIWA (Hamilton) for her input into the refinement and standardization of the variable measuring methods. The development of this method was funded primarily by the Auckland Regional Council, with the New Zealand Foundation for Research Science and Technology supporting its publication through Contract No. CO1X0305.


  1. Adamus PR, Clarain EJ Jr, Smith RD, Young RE (1987) Wetland evaluation technique (WET), vol II. Technical report Y-87. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MSGoogle Scholar
  2. Allan JD (1995) Stream ecology: structure and function of running waters. Chapman & Hall, LondonCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barnett AM, Johnston TD, Appy R (1994) Evaluation of the mitigative value of an artificial reef relative to open coast sand bottom by the biological evaluation standardised technique (BEST). Bulletin of Marine Sciences 55:2–3Google Scholar
  4. Bentivoglio A (2003) Compensatory mitigation for coral reef impacts in the Pacific Islands. U.S. Fish and Wildlife, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, Honolulu, HIGoogle Scholar
  5. Brinson MM (1993) A hydrogeographic classification for wetlands. Technical Report WRP-DE-4. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, VAGoogle Scholar
  6. Brinson MM, Rheinhardt R (1996) The role of reference wetlands in functional assessment and mitigation. Ecological Applications 6:69–76CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Ciesielka IK, Bailey RC (2007) Hierarchical structure of stream ecosystems: consequences for bioassessment. Hydrobiologia 586:57–67CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Collier K, Aldridge BMTA, Hicks BJ, Kelly J, MacDonald A, Smith BJ, Tonkin J (2009) Ecological values and restoration of urban streams: constraints and opportunities. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 33 (in press)Google Scholar
  9. Conservation Foundation (1988) Protecting America’s wetlands: an action agenda. Final report of the National Wetlands Policy Forum. Conservation Foundation, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  10. Cowell R (1997) Stretching the limits: environmental compensation, habitat creation and sustainable development. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, New Series 22:292–306CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Department of Fisheries and Oceans (1986) The Department of Fisheries and Oceans policy for the management of fish habitat. DFO, Ottawa, CanadaGoogle Scholar
  12. Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) (2005) Guidelines on evaluating ecosystem overviews and assessments: necessary documentation. Science Advisory Report No. 2005/026. DFO, Canadian Science Advisory Section, OttawaGoogle Scholar
  13. Dunn H (2004) Defining the ecological values of rivers: the views of Australian river scientists and managers. Aquatic Conservation—Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 14:413–433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. European Commission (2000) Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council 2000/60/EC establishing a framework for community action in the field of water policy. European Commission PE-CONS 3639/1/00 REV 1. EC, LuxembourgGoogle Scholar
  15. Finkelstein M, Bakker V, Doak DF, Sullivan B, Lewison R, Satterthwaite WH, McIntyre PB, Wolf S, Priddel D, Arnold JM, Henry RW, Sievert P, Croxall J (2008) Evaluating the potential effectiveness of compensatory mitigation strategies for marine bycatch. PLoS ONE 3(6):e2480CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Furse M, Hering D, Moog O, Verdonschot P, Johnson RK, Brabec K, Gritzalis K, Buffagni A, Pinto P, Friberg N, Murray-Bligh M, Kokes J, Alber R, Usseglio-Polatera P, Haase P, Sweeting R, Bis B, Szoszkiewicz K, Soszka H, Springe G, Sporka F, Krno I (2006) The STAR project: context, objectives and approaches. Hydrobiologia 566:3–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Harper DL, Quigley JT (2005) No net loss of fish habitat: a review and analysis of habitat compensation in Canada. Environmental Management 36:343–355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hauer R, Lamberti G (2006) Methods in stream ecology, 2nd edn. Elsevier Academic Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  19. Hildebrand RH, Watts AC, Randle AM (2005) The myths of restoration ecology. Ecology and Society 10:19. Google Scholar
  20. Hollands GG, Magee DW (1986) A method for assessing the functions of wetlands. In: Kusler JA, Riexinger P (eds) Proceedings of the national wetland assessment symposium, June 17–20, 1985, Portland, ME, pp 108–121Google Scholar
  21. Huggett D (1998) Designing and building dynamic coasts and wetlands: developing a no net loss approach. RAMSAR forum, No net loss and mitigation banking.
  22. Jorgensen SE, Costanza R, Xu F-L (2005) Handbook of ecological indicators for assessment of ecosystem health. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FLCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Joy M, Death R (2004) Application of the index of biotic integrity methodology to New Zealand freshwater fish communities. Environmental Management 34:415–428CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Joy M, Henderson R (2004) A fish index of biotic integrity (IBI) for the Auckland region—report and user guide for use with the Auckland Fish IBI software. Centre for Freshwater Ecosystem Modelling and Management, Massey University, Palmerston NorthGoogle Scholar
  25. Lake PS, Bond N, Reich P (2007) Linking ecological theory with stream restoration. Freshw Biol 52:597–615CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lange M, Cudmore-Vokey BC, Minns CK (2001) Habitat compensation case study analysis. Canadian Manuscript and Report on Fisheries and Aquatic Science No. 2576Google Scholar
  27. Light A (2000) Ecological restoration and the culture of nature; a pragmatic perspective. In: Gobster PH, Hull RB (eds) Restoring nature: perspectives from the social sciences and humanities. Island Press, St. Louis, MO, pp 49–70Google Scholar
  28. MacDonald A (2006) The influence of agricultural land use on the structure and functioning of small stream ecosystems. Research report submitted toward fulfillment of a BSc(Hons) degree. Massey University, Palmerston NorthGoogle Scholar
  29. Meyer JL, Wallace JB (2001) Lost linkages and lotic ecology: rediscovering small streams. In: Press MC, Huntly N, Levin S (eds) Ecology: achievement and challenge. Blackwell Science, LondonGoogle Scholar
  30. Meyer JL, Paul MJ, Taulbee WK (2005) Stream ecosystem function in urbanizing landscapes. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 24:602–612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Minns CK (1997) Quantifying “no net loss” of productivity of fish habitats. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 54:2463–2473Google Scholar
  32. Minns CK (2005) Compensation ratios needed to offset timing effects of losses and gains and achieve no net loss of productive capacity. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 63:1172–1182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Minns CK, Moore JE (2003) Assessment of net change of productive capacity of fish habitats: the role of uncertainty and complexity in decision making. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 60:100–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Minshall GW, Cummins KW, Petersen RC, Cushing CE, Bruns DA, Sedell JR, Vannote RL (1985) Developments in stream ecosystem theory. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 42:1045–1055CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Moilanen A, van Teeffelen AJA, Ben-Haim, Y, Ferrier S (2008) How much compensation is enough: a framework for incorporating uncertainty and time discounting when calculating offset ratios for impacted habitat. Restoration Ecology. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-100X.2008.00382.x
  36. Naiman RJ, Melillo JM, Lock MA, Ford TE, Reice SR (1987) Longitudinal patterns of ecosystem processes and community structure in a subarctic river continuum. Ecology 68:1139–1156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Naiman RJ, Décamps ME, McClain ME, Aronson J (2007) Riparian ecology, conservation and management of streamside communities. Natures Sciences Societies 15:441Google Scholar
  38. Norris RH, Prosser I, Young B, Liston P, Bauer N, Davies N, Dyer F, Linke S, Thoms M (2001) The assessment of river condition (ARC), an audit of the ecological condition of Australian rivers. Final report submitted to the National Land and Water Resources Audit Office. CSIRO Land and Water, CanberraGoogle Scholar
  39. Paul MJ, Meyer JL (2001) Streams in the urban landscape. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 32:333–365CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Phillips N, Parkyn S, Smith B (2006) Papakura ICMP—stream management component. NIWA Client Report HAM2006-102. National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research, Hamilton, New ZealandGoogle Scholar
  41. Quigley JT, Harper D (2006a) Effectiveness of fish habitat compensation in Canada in achieving no net loss. Environmental Management 37:351–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Quigley JT, Harper D (2006b) Compliance with Canada’s Fishery Act. A field audit of habitat compensation projects. Environmental Management 37:336–350CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Quinn JM, Phillips NR, Parkyn SM (2007) Factors influencing retention of coarse particulate organic matter in streams. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 32:1186–1203CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Roe E, van Eeten M (2003) Some recent innovations in improving ecosystem functions and service reliability. Global Environmental Change 13:155–158CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rowe DK (2003) Ecosystem valuation: a review of methods and recommendations for Auckland streams. NIWA Client Report HAM2003-075. National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research, Hamilton, New ZealandGoogle Scholar
  46. Rowe DK, Collier K, Hatton C, Joy M, Maxted J, Moore S, Neale M, Parkyn S, Phillips N, Quinn J (2008) Stream ecological valuation (SEV): a method for scoring the ecological performance of Auckland streams and for quantifying environmental compensation, 2nd edn. Auckland Regional Council Technical Publication No. 302. Auckland Regional Council, AucklandGoogle Scholar
  47. Roy AH, Freeman MC, Freeman BJ, Wenger SJ, Ensign WE, Meyer JL (2005) Investigating hydrologic alterations as a mechanism of fish assemblage shifts in urbanising streams. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 24:656–678CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Smith RD, Ammann A, Bartoldus C, Brinson M (1995) An approach for assessing wetland functions using hydrogeomorphic classification, reference wetlands and functional indices. Wetlands Research Program Technical Report WRP-DE-9. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, VAGoogle Scholar
  49. Snelder TH, Biggs BJF (2002) Multi-scale river environment classification for water resources management. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 38:1225–1240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Storey R (2007) Waitakere City stream survey and asset assessment. Evaluation of year one streams based on the stream ecological valuation (SEV) methodology. NIWA Client Report HAM2008-003. National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research, Hamilton, New ZealandGoogle Scholar
  51. Strange E, Galbraith H, Bickel S, Mills D, Beltman D, Lipton J (2002) Determining ecological equivalence in service-to-service scaling of salt marsh restoration. Environmental Management 29:290–300CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) (1989) MIST: a methodology to classify pre-project mitigation sites and develop performance standards for the construction and restoration of forested wetlands. In: White TA, Allen JA, Mader SF, Mengel DL, Perison DM, Tew DT (eds) Results of an EPA sponsored workshop, Atlanta, Georgia. USEPA, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  53. Wilding S, Raemaekers J (2000) Environmental compensation for greenfield development: is the devil in the detail. Planning Practice and Research 15:211–231CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Wilson MA, Carpenter SR (1999) Economic valuation of freshwater ecosystem services in the United States: 1971–1997. Ecological Applications 9:772–783Google Scholar
  55. World Wildlife Fund (WWF) (1992) State-wide wetland strategies: a guide to protecting and managing the resource. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  56. Young R, Townsend C, Matthaei (2004). Functional indicators of river ecosystem health—an interim guide for use in New Zealand. Cawthron Report No. 870. Cawthron Institute Nelson, New ZealandGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • David K. Rowe
    • 1
  • Stephanie Parkyn
    • 2
  • John Quinn
    • 1
  • Kevin Collier
    • 3
  • Chris Hatton
    • 4
  • Michael K. Joy
    • 5
  • John Maxted
    • 6
  • Stephen Moore
    • 7
  1. 1.National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Ltd.HamiltonNew Zealand
  2. 2.TumutAustralia
  3. 3.Environment WaikatoHamiltonNew Zealand
  4. 4.Auckland Regional CouncilAucklandNew Zealand
  5. 5.Ecology Group, Institute of Natural ResourcesMassey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand
  6. 6.South Florida Water Management DistrictWater Supply DepartmentWest Palm BeachUSA
  7. 7.Landcare Research Ltd.AucklandNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations