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Linking Changes in Management and Riparian Physical Functionality to Water Quality and Aquatic Habitat: A Case Study of Maggie Creek, NV
Kozlowski, D., S. Swanson, R. Hall, AND D. Heggem. Linking Changes in Management and Riparian Physical Functionality to Water Quality and Aquatic Habitat: A Case Study of Maggie Creek, NV. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-13/133, 2013.
The total maximum daily load (TMDL) process is ineffective and inappropriate for improving stream water quality in the rural areas of the northern Great Basin, and likely in many areas throughout the country. Important pollutants (e.g., sediment and nutrients) come from the stream systems rather than external point or nonpoint sources where TMDL focuses. Water quality indicators lag behind ecosystem functions, and monitoring water quality fails to identify causes of, or recovery from, loss of fish habitat, the most sensitive beneficial use. Ambient monitoring programs should identify risk and recovery, focusing resources toward effective land and water management strategies. To illustrate, we elucidate the connections between various water quality attributes and the seventeen items of the interagency riparian proper functioning condition (PFC) assessment for lotic (running water) riparian systems. We conducted PFC assessment for relevant parts of the Maggie Creek Watershed, and developed hypotheses of improved water quality from improved management and riparian conditions. We then tested these hypotheses using a far more intensive water quality monitoring data set than is generally available to either rangeland or water quality managers. The Maggie Creek, NV, case study demonstrates that changes in grazing management (timing and duration) resulted in improved stream functionality, leading to reduced sediment and phosphate, increased dissolved oxygen, and improved aquatic habitat. It also demonstrates that monitoring for water quality by monitoring water chemistry requires unaffordable frequency and generates highly variable data that obscures relevant issues while it fails to monitor drivers of system collapse or recovery. Thus water chemistry monitoring fails to timely inform management of impairment risk or the trend from management actions. We suggest that published protocols for monitoring multiple indicators of riparian functions are more relevant, faster, and less expensive.
Maintaining healthy aquatic and riparian habitats depends on management that allows or facilitates natural recovery of riparian functions after natural or anthropogenic disturbance. This work will empower resource managers to discover the most effective adaptive management techniques for ecosystem resource restoration to properly functioning condition. These functions include dissipating flood energy and slowing travel rates of materials out of their watershed positions; erosion and deposition of sediment to maintain floodplain access and channel pattern, profile, and dimension appropriate for the landform setting; hydrologic processes of aquifer recharge and hyporheic interchange; and growth and reproduction of stabilizing plant communities. Maintaining these dynamic functions provides riparian floodplain and aquatic capital that create extremely productive fish and wildlife habitats and soils, high water quality, high biodiversity, and other ecosystem services. Impairment of riparian functions changes hydrologic, vegetative, and geomorphic interrelationships and may trigger cascading effects.
HEGGEM ORD-004997 FINAL PUBLISHED REPORT..PDF (PDF,NA pp, 2809 KB, about PDF)
Record Details:Record Type: DOCUMENT (PUBLISHED REPORT/REPORT)
Organization:U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
NATIONAL EXPOSURE RESEARCH LAB
ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES DIVISION
IMMEDIATE OFFICE OF DIVISION DIRECTOR