Developing Relations Among Human Activities, Stressors, and Stream Ecosystem Responses and Linkage in Integrated Regional, Multi-Stressor Models

EPA Grant Number: R830884
Title: Developing Relations Among Human Activities, Stressors, and Stream Ecosystem Responses and Linkage in Integrated Regional, Multi-Stressor Models
Investigators: Stevenson, R. Jan , Hyndman, David , Pijanowski, Bryan , Seelbach, Paul W. , Wiley, Michael J.
Institution: Michigan State University , Purdue University , University of Michigan
EPA Project Officer: Hiscock, Michael
Project Period: May 1, 2003 through April 30, 2006 (Extended to January 31, 2008)
Project Amount: $748,527
RFA: Developing Regional-Scale Stressor-Response Models for Use in Environmental Decision-making (2002) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Ecosystems


Nutrients, sediments, dissolved oxygen, temperature, and hydrologic variability are common anthropogenically affected factors that have profound effects on valued ecological attributes (VEAs). Few models, statistical or process-based, explain relations among human activities, these stressors, and VEAs with sufficient precision that they can be used for management. Recent data indicate nitrogenous as well as carbonaceous biochemical oxygen demand can lead to oxygen depletion, which may be exacerbated by elevated temperatures in streams. We hypothesize that complex relations between human activities, nutrients, low DO, and VEAs can be explained by P-limitation of most bacteria and algae in many streams, ammonia regulating nitrification, and phosphorus and ammonia being transported from human sources to streams via different groundwater and surface-water pathways.


The objectives of our research are to relate human activities to a suite of common stressors (nutrients, sediments, dissolved oxygen, temperature, and hydrologic variability) in streams, to relate those stressors to the natural fisheries capital as well as ecological integrity of algal, invertebrate, and fish assemblages. We will then link stressor-response models to a system of land use, ecological, hydrologic, and water quality models (e.g., LTM, BASINS, QUAL2E, and AQUATOX) that can be used in ecosystem management. We will use extensive data from over 120 Michigan streams that has been developed by the PIs over the last 8 years. We believe that standard survey approaches with one-time sampling do not adequately characterize many stressors in streams because temporal variability is too great to build management models and distinguish the interactive effects among human activities on stressors and stressors on responses. Thus, we will collect new data to better characterize target stressors by frequently sampling over periods from hours to days, months, and years, depending on the scale of process studied. This has proven to be the key to developing precise stressor-response relations. Linear and non-linear relations among human activities, stressors, and responses will be characterized and evaluated for thresholds. We will evaluate the efficacy of best management practices and test hypotheses to assess progressive degradation in multi-trophic level, ecological conditions with increasing human disturbance so that predictions can be used to establish guidelines for tiered aquatic life and stressor criteria. Updated and new models relating human activities, stressors, and responses will be integrated into an ecological modeling system that the PIs have developed and will then be transferred to a suite of EPA supported models.

Expected Results:

All models will be tested with data from the Mid-Atlantic Integrated Assessment Project of EMAP and from state agencies, such as Kentucky Division of Water. Products of this project will be delivered through presentations and publications, a special session at a national meeting, a workshop for watershed managers, and ongoing PI involvement with state, regional, and national workgroups.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 1 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 1 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

risk assessment; indicators; restoration; aquatic; integrated assessment; watersheds; streams; remediation; EMAP; modeling; surveys; climate; agriculture; EPA Regions 5, 2, 4; MI; Mid-Atlantic; KY., RFA, Economic, Social, & Behavioral Science Research Program, Scientific Discipline, Air, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Water & Watershed, climate change, Air Pollution Effects, Monitoring/Modeling, Regional/Scaling, Environmental Monitoring, decision-making, Ecological Risk Assessment, Atmosphere, Watersheds, Economics & Decision Making, risk assessment, ecosystem modeling, aquatic ecosystem, valued ecological attributes, watershed, ecosystem assessment, effects of multiple stresses, decision analysis, decision making, environmental decision making, risk assessment model, ecological variation, regional scale impacts, water quality, environmental stress, assessment endpoint mechanistic research, ecology assessment models, ecosystem stress, watershed assessment, ecological models, fish models, individual based models, decision support tool, environmental risk assessment, Bayesian classifiers, water monitoring, adaptive implementation modeling, stress response

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2003 Progress Report
  • 2004 Progress Report
  • 2005 Progress Report
  • 2006 Progress Report
  • Final