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Global Change Impacts & Adaptation

Implications of Climate Change for State Bioassessment Programs and Approaches to Account for Effects (Final Report)

Notice

The U.S. EPA has released the final climate change report entitled Implications of Climate Change for State Bioassessment Programs and Approaches to Account for Effects.

Report Information

This final 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

Cover of the Climate Change for State Bioassessment Programs and Approaches  Final Report

This 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 report uses biological data collected by four states – Maine, North Carolina, Ohio and Utah – shallow or wadeable rivers and streams. The biological data are aquatic insects, clams, shrimp-like organisms, and worms known as benthic macroinvertebrates. These organisms are important biological indicators used to assess the condition of waterbodies.

This report shows that some of these biological indicators are more sensitive to changes in water temperature than others. While these indicators can be useful in determining effects related to climate change, they can also confound measurements that have traditionally been used to signal impairment to a stream or river. Because of this, it is not always clear whether changes in biomonitoring data are affected by climate change or other stressors. One way to distinguish these effects is through long-term monitoring of high-quality, generally undisturbed rivers and streams. Current monitoring is not designed to detect the effects of long-term changes in water temperature or streamflow on benthic macroinvertebrates or other organisms in rivers and streams. A more comprehensive monitoring design would enhance the ability of water program assessments to understand if climate change or other stressors is causing changes in biomonitoring data. This final report provides a foundation for understanding if biological indicators that are used to provide a signal of stream or river impairment are vulnerable to changes in climate. It also provides insight into how the effectiveness of monitoring and management plans can be maintained under changing climatic 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
Sep 2010EPA conducted a workshop in the Northeast to present study results based on data from Maine.
Oct 2010EPA conducted a workshop in the Southwest to present study results based on data from Utah.
Dec 2010EPA conducted a workshop in the Southeast to present study results based on data from North Carolina.
Oct 2010EPA conducted a workshop in the Midwest to present study results based on data from Ohio.
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.
May 2011EPA held an an independent peer review workshop to discuss the draft report.
Jul 2012EPA released the Freshwater Species Traits Database and Final Report.
Sep 2012EPA released the final report.

Citation

U.S. EPA. Implications of Climate Change for State Bioassessment Programs and Approaches to Account for Effects (Final Report). U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-11/036F, 2012.

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