Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 679–704 | Cite as

Using macroinvertebrate assemblages and multiple stressors to infer urban stream system condition: a case study in the central US

  • John Nichols
  • Jason A. Hubbart
  • Barry C. Poulton


Characterizing the impacts of hydrologic alterations, pollutants, and habitat degradation on macroinvertebrate species assemblages is of critical value for managers wishing to categorize stream ecosystem condition. A combination of approaches including trait-based metrics and traditional bioassessments provides greater information, particularly in anthropogenic stream ecosystems where traditional approaches can be confounded by variously interacting land use impacts. Macroinvertebrates were collected from two rural and three urban nested study sites in central Missouri, USA during the spring and fall seasons of 2011. Land use responses of conventional taxonomic and trait-based metrics were compared to streamflow indices, physical habitat metrics, and water quality indices. Results show that biotic index was significantly different (p < 0.05) between sites with differences detected in 54 % of trait-based metrics. The most consistent response to urbanization was observed in size metrics, with significantly (p < 0.05) fewer small bodied organisms. Increases in fine streambed sediment, decreased submerged woody rootmats, significantly higher winter Chloride concentrations, and decreased mean suspended sediment particle size in lower urban stream reaches also influenced macroinvertebrate assemblages. Riffle habitats in urban reaches contained 21 % more (p = 0.03) multivoltine organisms, which was positively correlated to the magnitude of peak flows (r 2 = 0.91, p = 0.012) suggesting that high flow events may serve as a disturbance in those areas. Results support the use of macroinvertebrate assemblages and multiple stressors to characterize urban stream system condition and highlight the need to better understand the complex interactions of trait-based metrics and anthropogenic aquatic ecosystem stressors.


Macroinvertebrates Physical habitat Rootmats Trait-based metrics Urbanization Hinkson Creek 



The authors would like to thank Bill Mabee and Matt Combes of the Missouri Department of Conservation for conducting the laboratory processing and identification of invertebrate samples. Funding was provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 7 through the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (P.N: G08-NPS-17) under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act, and the Missouri Department of Conservation. Results presented may not reflect the views of the sponsors and no official endorsement should be inferred. Collaborators include (but are not limited to) Boone County Public Works, City of Columbia, University of Missouri, and the U.S. Geological Survey. Special thanks are due to many Interdisciplinary Hydrology Laboratory scientists for field assistance and multiple reviewers whose constructive comments greatly improved the article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Nichols
    • 1
  • Jason A. Hubbart
    • 2
    • 3
  • Barry C. Poulton
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of ForestryUniversity of MissouriColumbiaUSA
  2. 2.Davis College, Schools of Agriculture and Food, and Natural ResourcesWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Water Security and ScienceWest Virginia UniversityMorgantownUSA
  4. 4.United States Geological SurveyColumbia Environmental Research CenterColumbiaUSA

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