Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 485–499 | Cite as

Environmental and social predictors of phosphorus in urban streams on the Island of Montréal, Québec

  • Laura R. PfeiferEmail author
  • Elena M. Bennett


Researchers have identified the importance of social characteristics for understanding ecological patterns in cities but the use of these characteristics in urban stream research has yet to be fully explored. Urban development is currently the second-largest cause of stream impairment in North America due in part to nutrient loading. However, research into factors that influence nutrient concentrations in urban streams is lacking. We sampled seven streams on the island of Montréal daily to measure phosphorus (P) concentration and P flux in each stream. We then compared stream P concentration and flux to several watershed characteristics commonly used to predict stream nutrients (e.g., watershed imperviousness, land use, existence of a riparian buffer) as well as several socio-economic characteristics of the watersheds (e.g., average home value, median household income). Overall, impervious surface cover and measures of land use were most effective at explaining the variation in P concentration and P flux in streams on the island of Montréal, while the riparian buffer and socio-economic variables were less effective. However, dollars spent on fertilizer per hectare of residential land and percent residential land use became important predictors of stream P concentration when impervious surface cover was removed from the regression model. This suggests that after accounting for the impact of physical watershed characteristics, social factors may be important predictors of urban stream P concentration. The results of our study suggest that more research is needed to determine the role that socio-economic variables play with respect to urban stream P.


Urban ecology Streams Phosphorus Nutrients Watershed Socio-economic Montréal, Québec 



We are grateful for funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI). Thanks also to Katherine Priestly and Morgan Botrel for their help in the field, and the many people who provided statistical and editorial advice on this project.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Natural Resource SciencesMcGill UniversitySte. Anne de BellevueCanada
  2. 2.McGill School of EnvironmentMcGill UniversitySte. Anne de BellevueCanada

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