Are Toronto’s streams sick? A look at the fish and benthic invertebrate communities in the Toronto region in relation to the urban stream syndrome
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Impacts of urbanization on aquatic ecosystems are intensifying as urban sprawl spreads across the global land base. The urban stream syndrome (USS) identifies “symptoms” associated with urban development including changes in biotic communities, hydrology, water chemistry, and channel morphology. Direct relationships between road density (as surrogate of urbanization) and indicators of the USS were identified for streams in the Toronto region. Significant negative relationships were revealed between road density and biological (fish and benthic macroinvertebrate) richness, diversity, and fish Index of Biotic Integrity scores. Significant positive relationships were found between road density and tolerant fish/benthic macroinvertbrates, benthos Family Biotic Index scores, mean summer stream temperature, stream flashiness, and several water quality variables. Analysis of biological data showed that only four fish species and a reduced number of benthic macroinvertebrate families remained at the most urbanized sites. Road density was found to be a major determinant in both the fish and benthic macroinvertebrate community structure.
KeywordsRoad density Urbanization Benthic invertebrates Fish Urban stream syndrome
We would like to thank the many TRCA field crews/technicians involved in this project over the past decade as well as Jamie Duncan and David Lawrie for providing data and advice and Jason Tam for his extensive GIS work. Special thanks to Dr. Keith Somers, Ontario Ministry of the Environment, for his statistics advice. We also acknowledge Scott Jarvie, Deborah Martin-Downs, Christine Tu, Jordan Rosenfeld (BC Ministry of the Environment), and an anonymous reviewer for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript.
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