2003 Progress Report: Ecological Classification of Rivers for Environmental Assessment: Demonstration, Validation, and Application to Regional Risk Assessment Across Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin

EPA Grant Number: R830596
Title: Ecological Classification of Rivers for Environmental Assessment: Demonstration, Validation, and Application to Regional Risk Assessment Across Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin
Investigators: Seelbach, Paul W. , Clark, Richard D. , Wehrly, Kevin E. , Wiley, Michael J. , Stevenson, R. Jan , Holtrop, Ann , Cooper, Arthur , Pijanowski, Bryan , Allan, David , Baker, Edward , Lyons, John , Hinz, Leon , Wang, Lizhu , Mitro, Matt , DePhilip, Michelle , Brenden, Travis , Zorn, Troy
Current Investigators: Seelbach, Paul W. , Clark, Richard D. , Wehrly, Kevin E. , Wiley, Michael J. , Stevenson, R. Jan , Aichele, Stephen S. , Holtrop, Ann , Cooper, Arthur , Pijanowski, Bryan , Bissell, Ed , Stewart, Jana , Lyons, John , Hinz, Leon , Wang, Lizhu , Mitro, Matt , Steen, Paul , Brenden, Travis , Zorn, Troy
Institution: University of Michigan , Purdue University , Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources , Illinois Department of Natural Resources , Nature Conservancy, The , Michigan Department of Natural Resources , Michigan State University
Current Institution: Michigan State University , Illinois Department of Natural Resources , Illinois Natural History Survey , Michigan Department of Natural Resources , Purdue University , United States Geological Survey , University of Michigan , Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: December 1, 2002 through December 31, 2006
Project Period Covered by this Report: December 1, 2002 through December 31, 2003
Project Amount: $842,547
RFA: Development of Watershed Classification Systems for Diagnosis of Biological Impairment in Watersheds (2002) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Watersheds , Water


The objective of this research project is to couple landscape-based modeling from large, regional data sets and regional land transformation models (LTM) with a valley segment ecological classification approach already being employed in several Midwestern states. Specific objectives of the research project include completion of a GIS-based river segment classification and provision of a comprehensive status and risk assessment of river systems across the upper Midwestern states of Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Progress Summary:

The main focus of work in Year 1 of the project was to develop the GIS and databases that will be the foundation for future modeling and risk analysis. We coordinated this work with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Great Lakes Region Riverine Aquatic GAP Project. That project needed a similar GIS. We held several planning meetings and developed a two-project, three-state work plan. Early in the planning stages we decided to use confluence-to-confluence river reaches (smallest NHD river unit or arc) as the base units for our analysis. This was more work than originally planned and also took longer to complete than expected, but we think it will be worth the effort. When our GIS work is completed, we will have delineated individual watersheds and riparian buffer zones for each of the NHD river arcs in the three-state region. Then, we will attach appropriate data (e.g., land cover, groundwater potential, depth to bedrock, bedrock type, surficial deposit types, drainage area, climate variables, etc.) through ArcView layers to watershed, buffer zone, and channel features of the GIS.

Our GIS structure could be used for many different types of regional stream or watershed analyses that require quantitative definition of stream or watershed segments. Acquiring and populating the GIS with data relevant to a given problem would be the primary requirement for such analyses. For example, our GIS structure may help assess or model pollution flow or sediment loading problems at a regional or watershed level and help evaluate watershed-level effects of point-source water withdrawals. It might also be useful as a foundation for future studies of lakes, their watersheds, and their positions in the landscape. In addition, the procedures we developed for delineating watersheds and buffers and populating them with data could be used anywhere in the United States. For our project, the GIS structure will allow us to use quantitative statistical methods to combine arcs into larger, ecologically homogeneous valley segments and river classes. Ultimately, this approach will lead to a stronger, more defensible stream status and risk assessment. Because we worked in collaboration with the USGS Aquatic GAP Project, our results will parallel and build upon theirs.

As part of the project, we initiated work on two subcontracts to Michigan State University to:

  1. develop a land transformation model (Dr. B.C. Pijanowski, Principal Investigator [PI]); and
  2. develop a regional algal database and model (Dr. R.J. Stevenson, PI).

Under the first subcontract, Dr. Pijanowski assembled all of the necessary data to run the Land Transformation Model (LTM) forward and backward across all three states. This included land use/cover, population, transportation, rivers/streams, SRTM derived DEM, soils, and housing and crop production databases for Michigan, Wisconsin, and Illinois.

Dr. Pijanowski and his colleagues recently published a paper in the International Journal of Geographic Information Science that outlines new techniques for calibrating the neural net-based model for the upper Midwest. Although the paper was not funded by this project, we do plan to use similar techniques. In particular, we learned that certain neural network topologies (configurations) produce better spatial patterns (i.e., patches, average patch size, fractal dimension) than others. In addition, we found that the number of training cycles in the neural net analysis gives vastly different levels of accuracy.

Dr. Pijanowski and his colleagues also developed and submitted two other papers for publication that relate to this project. The first relates to the coupling of the LTM and University of Michigan’s stream, runoff, and fish production models, and the second relates to the coupling of LTM and Dr. Engel’s L-THIA model that simulates runoff and industrial non-point source pollution loading to streams. Both approaches show excellent promise for coupling land use change models with hydrologic and chemical loading to stream models.

Under the second subcontract, Dr. Stevenson and his colleagues started development of the regional algal database. They collected algae samples and rapid periphyton survey data from 42 Illinois sites, 132 Wisconsin sites, and 4 Michigan sites, in summer-fall 2003. Inclusion of samples and survey data from another one of their projects, the Muskegon River Watershed Assessment, adds an additional 100 sites to the Michigan set. Sample preparation for analysis is nearly complete, with the last of the diatom slide preparations to be finished shortly. The Muskegon diatom counts have been completed and Illinois diatom counts are nearing completion. These data will be the focus of a presentation at the North American Benthological Society meeting in June 2004, which will highlight the flexibility of the survey protocol and its ability to produce comparable measures of ecological condition across diverse stream types. They also developed a plan for selecting a set of sites that will represent the full range of stream types present in the MI-VSEC database.

We also initiated work on temperature, flow, and fish modeling this year. Dr. Li Wang is leading the temperature modeling work. A new Research Associate, Dr. Leon Hinz, is conducting flow modeling work. Dr. Troy Zorn is leading the fish modeling work.

GIS catchment, riparian, and local buffers are nearly completed for all temperature sampling sites in Michigan and Wisconsin. Water temperature data is being collected for 50 new sites before GIS work is done in Illinois. GIS catchment, riparian, and local buffers are nearly completed for all flow sampling sites in Michigan and Wisconsin. Flow sampling sites have just been selected for Illinois, and we are acquiring data from the Illinois USGS.

Future Activities:

We will complete our GIS in April 2004 and begin the statistical analysis to define valley segments. We will continue to develop the regional algal database and LTM. We will complete the temperature, flow, and fish modeling work. We will initiate work to develop predictions under various scenarios and to develop classifications for river segments.

Journal Articles:

No journal articles submitted with this report: View all 34 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

watershed, geographic information system, landscape metrics, Upper Midwest region, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, IL, MI, WI, stream valley segment definition and validation, ecological classification of streams, modeling stream flows, modeling stream temperatures, modeling fish distribution and abundance, modeling regional land transformation, stream status and risk assessment, state resource agency survey databases, predicting stream reference conditions from landscape variables, hydrologic regime, thermal regime, bioassessment, fish assemblage, hierarchy, monitoring,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION, ECOSYSTEMS, Water, Geographic Area, Waste, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Bioavailability, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, Water & Watershed, State, Aquatic Ecosystem, Water Quality Monitoring, Environmental Monitoring, Terrestrial Ecosystems, Ecology and Ecosystems, Watersheds, anthropogenic processes, fate and transport, model, nutrient transport, anthropogenic stress, bioassessment, watershed classification, biodiversity, watershed management, ecosystem monitoring, conservation, diagnostic indicators, ecosystem indicators, Illinois (IL), aquatic ecosystems, water quality, Wisconsin (WI), bioindicators, watershed sustainablility, biological indicators, ecosystem stress, watershed assessment, transport modeling, nitrogen uptake, conservation planning, bioavailable phosphorus, agricultural community, aquatic biota, land use, restoration planning, watershed restoration, Michigan (MI), ecosystem response

Relevant Websites:

http://sitemaker.umich.edu/riverclassproject Exit

Progress and Final Reports:

Original Abstract
  • 2004 Progress Report
  • 2005
  • 2006
  • Final Report