Using Legacy Data to Relate Biological Condition to Cumulative Aquatic Toxicity in the Willamette River Basin (Oregon, USA)



In the Willamette River Basin (Oregon, USA), various residential, municipal, industrial, and agricultural activities produce physical, biological, and chemical stressors that may impinge on the basin’s aquatic ecosystems. For >30 years, numerous water-quality and biological-condition data have been accumulated by often disparate monitoring programs. This diagnostic analysis explored whether these legacy data could be used to correlate the presence of chemical stressors with biological condition impacts with the understanding that association is not necessarily causation. Other natural or anthropogenic stressors that may also impact biological conditions were not considered in this study. Acute-toxicity indices were calculated separately for trace metals and organic chemicals detected in surface waters between 1994 and 2010 and then compared with land-use metrics and vertebrate- and invertebrate-assemblage indices from surveys conducted basin-wide during this same period. Half of the possible relations between land use, biological condition, and toxicity were statistically significant at p ≤ 0.10. These results suggest that conditions for aquatic receptors improve either as agricultural or urban land decreases or as forested land increases and that chemical mixtures (primarily involving pesticides) may have impacted components of the basin’s aquatic ecosystems. There may be a need for strengthened chemical-management practices on agricultural and urban lands and for maintaining undisturbed forested land to limit chemical migration into adjacent waters. Although these results indicate some utility for legacy data, they also suggest that a more defensible assessment of chemical stressors requires a program specifically designed for that purpose.

Supplementary material

244_2011_9713_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.5 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1492 kb)
244_2011_9713_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (128 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 127 kb)
244_2011_9713_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (2 mb)
Supplementary material 3 (PDF 2074 kb)
244_2011_9713_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (1.5 mb)
Supplementary material 4 (PDF 1557 kb)


  1. Ahlers J, Riedhammer C, Vogliano M, Ebert R-U, Kühne R, Schüürmann G (2006) Acute to chronic ratios in aquatic toxicity―variation across trophic levels and relationship with chemical structure. Environ Toxicol Chem 25:2937–2945CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Anderson TD, Lydy MJ (2002) Increased toxicity to invertebrates associated with a mixture of atrazine and organophosphate insecticides. Environ Toxicol Chem 21:1507–1514CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anderson CW, Rinella F, Rounds SA (1996a) Occurrence of selected trace elements and organic compounds and their relation to land use in the Willamette River Basin, Oregon, 1992–94. WRIR 96–4234. United States Geological Survey, Portland, ORGoogle Scholar
  4. Anderson CW, Wood TM, Morace JL (1996b) Distribution of dissolved pesticides and other water quality constituents in small streams, and their relation to land use, in the Willamette River Basin, Oregon, 1996. WRIR 97-4268. United States Geological Survey, Portland, ORGoogle Scholar
  5. Backhaus T, Faust M, Blanck H (2010) Hazard and risk assessment of chemical mixtures under REACH―State of the art, gaps, and options for improvement. Report to the Swedish Chemicals Agency. Bromma, SwedenGoogle Scholar
  6. Baldwin DH, Spromberg JA, Collier TK, Scholz NL (2009) A fish of many scales: extrapolating sublethal pesticide exposures to the productivity of wild salmon populations. Ecol Appl 19:2004–2015CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barnes KK, Kolpin DW, Meyer MT, Thurman EM, Furlong ET, Zaugg SD et al (2002) Water-quality data for pharmaceuticals, hormones, and other organic wastewater contaminants in U.S. streams, 1999–2000. Open File Report 02–94. United States Geological Survey, Iowa City, IAGoogle Scholar
  8. Belden JB, Gilliom RJ, Martin JD, Lydy MJ (2007a) Relative toxicity and occurrence patterns of pesticide mixtures in streams draining agricultural watersheds dominated by corn and soybean production. Integ Environ Assess Manage 3(1):90–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Belden JB, Gilliom RJ, Lydy MJ (2007b) How well can we predict the toxicity of pesticide mixtures to aquatic life? Integ Environ Assess Manag 3:364–372CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Berenbaum MC (1985) The expected effect of a combination of agents: the general solution. J Theo Biol 114:413–431CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Black RW, Haggland AL, Voss FD (2000) Predicting the probability of detecting organochlorine pesticides and polychlorinated biphenyls in stream systems on the basis of land use in the Pacific Northwest, USA. Environ Toxicol Chem 19:1044–1054CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Callahan MA, Sexton K (2007) If cumulative risk assessment is the answer, what is the question? Environ Health Perspect 115:799–806CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Carpenter KD, Sobieszczyk S, Arnsberg AJ, Rinella FA (2008) Pesticide occurrence and distribution in the Lower Clackamas River Basin Oregon, 2000–2005. SIR 2008–5027. United States Geological Survey, Reston, VAGoogle Scholar
  14. Chèvre N, Loepfe C, Singer H, Stamm C, Fenner K, Escher BI (2006) Including mixtures in the determination of water quality criteria for herbicides in surface water. Environ Sci Technol 40:426–435CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Daughton CG (2005) “Emerging” chemicals as pollutants in the environment: a 21st Century perspective. Renew Resour J Winter:6–23Google Scholar
  16. de Zwart D, Posthuma L (2005) Complex mixture toxicity for single and multiple species: Proposed methodologies. Environ Toxicol Chem 24:2665–2676CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. European Economic Community (1991) European Economic Community, Council Directive of 15 July 1991, concerning the placing of plant protection products on the market. Office of Official Publications of the European Union, LuxembourgGoogle Scholar
  18. Faust M, Altenberger R, Backhaus T, Blanck H, Boedeker W, Gramatica P et al (2002) Joint algal toxicity of 16 dissimilarly acting chemicals is predictable by the concept of independent action. Aquatic Toxicol 63:43–63CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Forget J, Pavillon J-F, Beliaeff B, Bocquené G (1999) Joint action of pollutant combinations (pesticides and metals) on survival (LC50 values) and acetylcholinesterase activity of Tigriopus brevicornis (Copepoda, Harpacticoida). Environ Toxicol Chem 18:912–918Google Scholar
  20. Gilliom RJ, Barbash JE, Crawford CG, Hamilton PA, Martin JD, Nakagaki N et al (2006) The quality of our nation’s waters―Pesticides in the nation’s streams and groundwater, 1991–2001. Circular 1291. United States Geological Survey, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  21. Harrison HE, Anderson CW, Rinella FA, Gasser TM, Pogue TR Jr (1997) Analytical data from phases i and ii of the Willamette River Basin Water Quality Study, Oregon, 1992–94. Open-File Report 95–373 (revised). United States Geological Survey, Portland, ORGoogle Scholar
  22. Hawkins CP, Norris RH, Hogus JN, Feminella JW (2000) Development and evaluation of predictive models for measuring the biological integrity of streams. Ecol Appl 10:1277–1456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Helsel DR (2010) Summing nondetects: Incorporating low-level contaminants in risk assessment. Integ Environ Assess Manage 6:361–366CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Hubler S (2008) PREDATOR: Development and use of RIVPACS-type macroinvertebrate models to assess the biotic condition of wadeable Oregon streams. DEQ08-LAB-0048-TR. Laboratory and Environmental Assessment Division, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Portland, ORGoogle Scholar
  25. Kapo KE, Burton GA Jr (2006) A GIS-based weight of evidence approach for diagnosing aquatic ecosystem impairment. Environ Toxicol Chem 25:2237–2249CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Landis WG, Thomas JF (2009) Regional risk assessment as a part of the long-term receiving water study. Integ Environ Assess Manage 5:234–247CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Liess M (2002) Population response to toxicants is altered by intraspecific interaction. Environ Toxicol Chem 21:138–142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Liess M, Von der Ohe PC (2005) Analyzing effects of pesticides on invertebrate communities in streams. Environ Toxicol Chem 24:954–965CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Macneale KH, Kiffney PM, Scholz NL (2010) Pesticides, aquatic food webs, and the conservation of Pacific salmon. Frontiers Ecol Environ 8:475–482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Moore DRJ, Breton RL, MacDonald DB (2003) A comparison of model performance for six quantitative structure-activity relationship packages that predict acute toxicity to fish. Environ Toxicol Chem 22:1799–1809CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Morton MG, Dickson KL, Waller WT, Acevedo MF, Mayer FL Jr, Ablan M (2000) Methodology for the evaluation of cumulative episodic exposure to chemical stressors in aquatic risk assessment. Environ Toxicol Chem 19:1213–1221CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mulvey M, Leferink R, Borisenko A (2009) Willamette Basin rivers and streams assessment. DEQ-09-LAB-016. Laboratory and Environmental Assessment Division, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, Portland, ORGoogle Scholar
  33. Munn MD, Gilliom RJ, Moran PW, Nowell LH (2006) Pesticide toxicity index for freshwater aquatic organisms. SIR 2006–5148. United States Geological Survey, Reston, VAGoogle Scholar
  34. Norton SB, Cormier SM, Smith M, Jones RC (2000) Can biological assessments discriminate among types of stress? A case study from the Eastern Corn Belt Plains ecoregion. Environ Toxicol Chem 19:1113–1119CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Novotny V, Bartošová A, O’Reilly N, Ehlinger T (2005) Unlocking the relationship of biotic integrity of impaired waters to anthropogenic stresses. Water Res 39:184–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Olsen AR, Peck DV (2008) Survey design and extent estimates for the Wadeable Streams Assessment. J N Am Benthol Soc 27:822–836CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pont D, Hughes RM, Whittier TR (2009) A predictive index of biotic integrity model for aquatic-vertebrate assemblages of Western U.S. streams. Trans Am Fish Soc 138:292–305CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Qian SS, Anderson CW (1999) Exploring factors controlling the variability of pesticide concentrations in the Willamette River using tree-based models. Environ Sci Technol 33:3332–3340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Relyea RA (2009) A cocktail of contaminants: how mixtures of pesticides at low concentrations affect aquatic communities. Oecologia 159:363–376CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Reuschenbach P, Silvani M, Dammann M, Warnecke D, Knacker T (2008) ECOSAR model performance with a large test set of industrial chemicals. Chemosphere 71:1986–1995CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Rinella FA, Janet ML (1998) Seasonal and spatial variability of nutrients and pesticides in streams of the Willamette Basin, Oregon, 1993–95. WRIR 97–4082–C. United States Geological Survey, Portland, ORGoogle Scholar
  42. Rounds SA, Doyle MC, Edwards PM, Furlong ET (2009) Reconnaissance of pharmaceutical chemicals in urban streams of the Tualatin River Basin, Oregon, 2002. SIR 2009–5119. United States Geological Survey, Reston, VAGoogle Scholar
  43. Schäfer RB, Caquet T, Siimes K, Mueller R, Lagadic L, Liess M (2007) Effects of pesticides on community structure and ecosystem functions in agricultural streams of three biogeographical regions in Europe. Sci Total Environ 382:272–285CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Schriever CA, Liess M (2007) Mapping ecological risk of ecological pesticide runoff. Sci Total Environ 384:264–279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schubauer-Berigan M, Smith M, Hopkins J, Cormier SM (2000) Using historical biological data to evaluate status and trends in the Big Darby Creek watershed (Ohio, USA). Environ Toxicol Chem 19:1097–1105CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Stanford JA, Hauer FR, Gregory SV, Snyder EB (2005) Columbia River Basin. In: Benke AC, Cushing CE (eds) Rivers of North America. Elsevier, Burlington, MA, pp 615–622Google Scholar
  47. Trimble AJ, Weston DP, Belden JB, Lydy MJ (2009) Identification and evaluation of pyrethroid insecticide mixtures in urban sediments. Environ Toxicol Chem 28:1687–1695CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. USEPA (2000) Stressor identification guidance. EPA-822-B-00–025. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water and Office of Research and Development, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  49. USEPA (2004) Overview of the ecological risk assessment process in the Office of Pesticide Programs. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pesticide Programs, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  50. USEPA (2009a) Aquatic life benchmarks. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Pesticide Programs, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  51. USEPA (2009b) National recommended water quality criteria. United States Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Office of Science and Technology, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  52. Von der Ohe PC, Liess M (2004) Relative sensitivity distribution of aquatic invertebrates to organic and metal compounds. Environ Tox Chem 23:150–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Von der Ohe PC, De Deckere E, Prüß A, Muñoz I, Wolfram G, Villagrasa M et al (2009) Toward an integrated assessment of the ecological and chemical status of European river basins. Integ Environ Assess Manage 5:50–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Waite IR, Sobieszczyk S, Carpenter KD, Arnsberg AJ, Johnson HM, Hughes CA et al (2008) Effects of urbanization on stream ecosystems in the Willamette River Basin and surrounding area, Oregon and Washington. SIR 2006–5101-D. United States Geological Survey, Reston, VAGoogle Scholar
  55. Walters DM, Roy AH, Leigh DS (2009) Environmental indicators of macroinvertebrate and fish assemblage integrity in urbanizing watersheds. Ecol Indicators 9:1222–1233CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Wentz DA, Bonn BA, Carpenter KD, Hinkle SR, Janet ML, Rinella FA et al (1998) Water quality in the Willamette Basin, Oregon, 1991–95. Circular 1161. United States Geological Survey, Portland, ORGoogle Scholar
  57. Whittier TR, Van Sickle JV (2010) Macroinvertebrate tolerance values and an assemblage tolerance index (ATI) for Western USA streams and rivers. J N Am Benth Soc 29:852–866CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Whittier TR, Hughes RM, Lomnicky GA, Peck DV (2007) Fish and amphibian tolerance values and assemblage tolerance index for streams and rivers in the Western USA. Trans Am Fish Soc 136:254–271CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oregon Department of Environmental QualityPortlandUSA

Personalised recommendations