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Environmental Management

, Volume 51, Issue 6, pp 1262–1273 | Cite as

Identifying Reference Conditions and Quantifying Biological Variability Within Benthic Macroinvertebrate Communities in Perennial and Non-perennial Northern California Streams

  • Kevin B. Lunde
  • Matthew R. Cover
  • Raphael D. Mazor
  • Christopher A. Sommers
  • Vincent H. Resh
Article

Abstract

Identification of minimally disturbed reference sites is a critical step in developing precise and informative ecological indicators. We tested procedures to select reference sites, and quantified natural variation (inter-site and -annual variability) among reference conditions using a macroinvertebrate data set collected from 429 mediterranean-climate stream reaches in the San Francisco Bay Area, California (USA). We determined that a landscape GIS-based stressor screen followed by a local field-based stressor screen effectively identified least-disturbed reference sites that, based on NMS ordination results, supported different biological communities than sites identified with only landscape (GIS) or local (field) stressors. An examination of least-disturbed reference sites indicated that inter-site variability was strongly associated with stream hydrology (i.e., perennial vs. non-perennial flow) and annual precipitation, which highlights the need to control for such variation when developing biological indicators through natural gradient modeling or using unique biological indicators for both non-perennial and perennial streams. Metrics were more variable among non-perennial streams, indicating that additional modeling may be needed to develop precise biological indicators for non-perennial streams. Among 192 sites sampled two to six times over the 8-year study period, the biological community showed moderate inter-annual variability, with the 100 point index of biotic integrity scores varying from 0 to 51 points (mean = 11.5). Variance components analysis indicated that inter-annual variability explained only a fraction (5–18 %) of the total variation when compared against site-level variation; thus efforts to understand causes of natural variation between sites will produce more precise and accurate biological indicators.

Keywords

Bioassessment Biological indices Inter-annual variability Spatial variability Reference condition Multimetric index Mediterranean Hydrology Ecoregion 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank the following organization for contributing data: San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board’s Surface Water Ambient Monitoring Program (SWAMP), Alameda Countywide Clean Water Program, Contra Costa County Clean Water Program, Contra Costa County Citizens Monitoring Program, Marin County Stormwater Pollution Prevention Program, San Mateo Countywide Water Pollution Prevention Program, Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program, Sonoma Ecology Center, and the Institute for Conservation Advocacy Research and Education; K. Taberski, S. Moore, and N. White of the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board SWAMP designed and managed the monitoring program that collected much of the data; J. Harrington, P. Ode, A. Rehn at the California Department of Fish and Game’s Aquatic Bioassessment Laboratory managed field teams and laboratory technicians; P. Randall, K. Kerr, and L. Buchan at EOA managed the CalEDAS database. A Merenlender provided helpful comments on previous versions on the manuscript, and M. Engeln assisted with statistical efforts. K. Lunde acknowledges funding from the Environmental Protection Agency Science to Achieve Results (EPA STAR) program and the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP). Although the research described in the article has been funded wholly or in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s STAR program, it has not been subjected to any EPA review and therefore does not necessarily reflect the views of the Agency, and no official endorsement should be inferred.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin B. Lunde
    • 1
  • Matthew R. Cover
    • 2
  • Raphael D. Mazor
    • 3
  • Christopher A. Sommers
    • 4
  • Vincent H. Resh
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and ManagementUniversity of California, BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA
  2. 2.Department of Biological SciencesCalifornia State University, Stanislaus, One University Circle TurlockTurlockUSA
  3. 3.Department of BiologySouthern California Coastal Water Research ProjectCosta MesaUSA
  4. 4.EOA, Inc.OaklandUSA

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