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Grantee Research Project Results

NCER Grantee Research Project Results

Modeling Mussel and Fish Assemblage Composition Across an Urban-rural Gradient to Determine the Relationship between Mussel and Fish Community Measures and Environmental Stressors from Urbanization

EPA Grant Number: F07E61118
Title: Modeling Mussel and Fish Assemblage Composition Across an Urban-rural Gradient to Determine the Relationship between Mussel and Fish Community Measures and Environmental Stressors from Urbanization
Investigators: Bowers-Howell, Heather Nicole
Institution: Alabama A & M University
EPA Project Officer: Zambrana, Jose
Project Period: September 1, 2007 through September 1, 2010
RFA: GRO Fellowships for Graduate Environmental Study (2007)
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Aquatic Ecology and Ecosystems , Fellowship - Environmental Science , Fellowship - Natural Resources

Description:

Objective:

Direct gradient analysis and statistical modeling of environmental factors corresponding to an ordination of aquatic organisms along an urban-rural gradient in streams of northern Alabama. These communities are composed of many species that are sensitive to water quality conditions and may be threatened by substantial land use changes in the watershed.

The research goal is to model the difference in mussel and fish assemblages across an urban-rural gradient and determine the relationship between urbanization-related environmental stressors and community measures of mussels and fish.

Approach:

My goals are to:

  1. Survey freshwater fish and mussel species in selected stream reaches in northern Alabama to determine species composition, abundance and diversity,
  2. Quantify environmental conditions in study streams by measuring water quality parameters (pH, conductivity, fecal coliforms, turbidity, etc.),  meso-habitat variables (streambank structure, channel morphology, current velocity, riparian vegetation cover, etc.), and landscape characteristics in the watershed (land use/land cover composition, human population density, etc.), 
  3. Determine the environmental factors that correspond to location of individual species of freshwater fish and mussels ordinated along an urban-rural environmental gradient. 
  4. Identify threshold levels of environmental factors that are associated with dramatic shifts in the aquatic community composition,
  5. Construct a statistical model to forecast likely outcomes to the aquatic community from changes in environmental conditions resulting from urbanization for use in bio-assessment of streams, monitoring of environmental health conditions, and natural resources management.

Expected Results:

The proposed study could be important to the understanding of the relative effect of factors within an environmentally complex urbanization gradient upon aquatic ecosystems, including thresholds of response for organisms and the composition of communities in areas of intermediate disturbance. The proposed project has the potential for community outreach to educate land managers and the public on how their decisions and practices can affect aquatic ecosystems.

Supplemental Keywords:

Mussels, Fish, Urbanization, Species Richness, Community Measures, Gradient Analysis, Bioasessments, Urban-Rural Gradient, Biologic Integrity,

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The perspectives, information and conclusions conveyed in research project abstracts, progress reports, final reports, journal abstracts and journal publications convey the viewpoints of the principal investigator and may not represent the views and policies of ORD and EPA. Conclusions drawn by the principal investigators have not been reviewed by the Agency.

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