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Environmental Assessment

Implications of Climate Change for State Bioassessment Programs and Approaches to Account for Effects (External Review Draft)

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Report Information

This draft report uses biological data collected by four states in wadeable rivers and streams to examine the components of state and tribal bioassessment and biomonitoring programs that may be vulnerable to climate change. The study investigates the potential to identify biological response signals to climate change within existing bioassessment data sets; analyzes how biological responses can be categorized and interpreted; and assesses how they may influence decision-making processes. The analyses suggest that several biological indicators may be used to detect climate change effects and such indicators can be used by state bioassessment programs to document changes at high-quality reference sites.

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Britta G. Bierwagen
  • by phone at:   703-347-8613
  • by fax at:   703-347-8694
  • by email at:  bierwagen.britta@epa.gov

Background

This draft report is intended for managers and scientists working on biological indicators, bioassessment, biomonitoring, and biocriteria, particularly in the EPA’s Office of Water and Regions, and also at state agencies. The results presented in this report are based on data of aquatic insect and other invertebrates (e.g., worms, clams, and small shrimp-like organisms) collected in wadeable rivers and streams primarily in four states, Maine, North Carolina, Ohio, and Utah. This report identifies the components of state and tribal bioassessment programs that may be affected by climate change. The study investigates the potential to identify biological response signals to climate change within existing bioassessment data sets; analyzes how biological responses can be categorized and interpreted; and assesses how they may influence decision-making processes.

The ten most important findings of the report are that:

  • Multi-metric indices are vulnerable to climate change
  • Predictive models used in bioassessment may be less vulnerable to climate change
  • Detection of climate change effects requires a specifically designed climate change monitoring network
  • Reference stations are vulnerable from changes in community composition
  • Vulnerability varies by location
  • Reference sites need protection from other stressors
  • Collecting abiotic data is also necessary
  • Reference station degradation diminishes the ability to detect impairment
  • Climate change may make TMDL development more difficult
  • Climate change may alter designated uses and their attainability

The ultimate goals of the report are to provide a foundation for understanding the potential climatic vulnerability of bioassessment indicators and advancing the development of specific strategies to ensure the effectiveness of monitoring and management plans under changing conditions.

History/Chronology

Feb 2008EPA hosted a workshop on Bioindicators and Climate Change in Crystal City, VA on Feb 19-21, 2008.
Aug 2009EPA conducted an internal review of report. Then held regional workshops. See timeline on webpage: http://www.epa.gov/ncea/global/regional_shops.htm
Dec 2010Published journal articles in special section of Journal of the North American Benthological Society.
Apr 2011EPA released the external review draft for public review and comment.

Next Steps

May 11, 2011 will be the external peer review meeting. The report will be revised based on review comments received and will be published as a final EPA report in the summer of 2011.

Additional Information

Comments on the assessment may be submitted and reviewed using the e-Government Regulations.gov Web site. From the site, select “Environmental Protection Agency” and the keyword “EPA-HQ-ORD-2011-0368" (for the docket ID) to comment on this report.

Citation

U.S. EPA. Implications of Climate Change for State Bioassessment Programs and Approaches to Account for Effects (External Review Draft). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-11/036A, 2011.

Downloads

This download(s) is distributed solely for the purpose of pre-dissemination peer review under applicable information quality guidelines. It has not been formally disseminated by EPA. It does not represent and should not be construed to represent any Agency determination or policy.

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