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Addressing the Urban Stream Syndrome in the Northeast United States
Smucker, N. AND N. Detenbeck. Addressing the Urban Stream Syndrome in the Northeast United States. Presented at Symposium on Urbanization and Stream Ecology (3rd), Portland, OR, May 15 - 17, 2014.
Urbanization has many negative effects on stream ecosystems throughout the northeast United States. This presentation provides an overview of (1) the history of development in the region, (2) the major impacts to habitat and ecological communities in streams, (3) what the main drivers are for protecting and restoring streams, and (4) a conceptual model representing mechanisms of urban impacts on streams and how management strategies address these impacts.
The Northeast has become one of the most urbanized regions in the United States, following a long history of watershed alteration and development. Much of the historical drainage infrastructure was designed to transport wastewater and stormwater to streams and rivers as quickly as possible, with the intentions being to reduce health risks and flooding. These drainage networks, along with sprawling impervious areas, modified wetlands and stream channels, and stressors associated with human activities, have caused serious impacts to stream ecosystems. As a result, substantial ecological changes have been observed in streams, largely due to stormwater, altered flow regimes, and stressors associated with development and human activities. Although annual precipitation is slightly increasing in the region, summers are expected to become dryer. Increased rates of drinking water withdrawals during summer coupled with reduced retention capacity of developed watersheds will likely put further pressures on freshwater resources. Recent legislation initiatives and novel management strategies are making progress toward mitigating current and future impacts, but governance structures, information access, and financial costs continue to be obstacles facing stream restoration and protection.