REGIONAL ASSESSMENT OF FISH HEALTH: A PROTOTYPE METHODOLOGY AND CASE STUDY FOR THE ALBEMARLE-PAMLICO RIVER BASIN, NORTH CAROLINA
Barber, M C., R M. Baca, S L. Bird, J. Doherty, L R. Exum, J M. Johnston, R R. Lassiter, B Rashleigh, M J. Cyterski, S J. Colarullo, N T. Loux, L M. Prieto, AND C J. Wright. REGIONAL ASSESSMENT OF FISH HEALTH: A PROTOTYPE METHODOLOGY AND CASE STUDY FOR THE ALBEMARLE-PAMLICO RIVER BASIN, NORTH CAROLINA. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-02/067 (NTIS PB2004-101170), 2002.
This research project sets out to design and conduct an assessment of the long-term ecological consequences of alternative watershed management choices. As the first project to be done at this scale using predictive ecological endpoints, we will seek to identify the appropriate components of such an analysis. We will use experience gained in the conduct of this analysis to identify key research and data needs for future analyses. We will extend this analysis beyond previous and ongoing studies in two ways: by incorporating biological endpoints, primarily properties of fish communities, and by introducing the concept of sustainability of ecological state under future scenarios contrasted with the present state of those same ecological resources. Requirements that are identified during the course of this study will permit the recommendation of specific capabilities that should be incorporated in a general modeling system currently under development to support environmental assessments. Finally, the analysis is intended to be of value for establishing environmental management choices that will be beneficial and those that would be detrimental to the sustainability of ecological resources. Specific objectives are listed below:
1. Develop watershed-based modeling systems to forecast the effectiveness of alternative management plans in meeting sediment-related, nutrient-related, pathogen-related, and toxics-related criteria and standards, and biologically-based criteria and standards; and
2. Develop and maintain a comprehensive technical support capability that directly links environmental TMDL exposure research activities and products for the EPA Office of Water, EPA Regional Offices, and the States to be used for implementation of policy, regulatory development, remediation, and enforcement needs.
BASE (Basin-Scale Assessments for Sustainable Ecosystems) is a research program developed by the Ecosystems Research Division of the National Exposure Research Laboratory to explore and formulate approaches for assessing the sustainability of ecological resources within watersheds and larger river basins. To give the program focus, BASE has focused on developing a conceptual framework to assess the sustainability of ecological resources in the Albemarle-Pamlico Basin, NC under the influence of the multiple stressors that might be imposed by human activities across the region. To make this project doable, BASE's focus was narrowed further to deal only with the assessment of projected changes in various dimensions of fish health within the Albemarle-Pamlico Basin. A more complete assessment, however, would consider a wide variety of ecological resources, selected to represent many kinds of potential vulnerability. These could include dwindling habitats, altered climate that places many species of both animals and plants out of their physiological tolerance limits, and the continuing threat to biota across the region from a changing suite of environmental contaminants.
The major components of BASE are: 1) identification and generation of stressor scenarios that directly or indirectly produce ecological effects; 2) hydrologic, hydrodynamic, and water quality simulations; and 3) fish endpoint simulations. Conceptually, analyses of projected socioeconomic and demographic changes within the basin are used to generate input scenarios for regionally distributed hydrological and water quality models. The resulting water quality scenarios are, in turn, used as inputs to various fish endpoint models whose outputs are used to assess the regional sustainability of fish health.
According to the BASE conceptual framework, projected socioeconomic and demographic trends can be translated directly into future land use practices that directly alter 1) regional hydrologic patterns, 2) sediment, nutrient, and contaminant loadings to surface waters, 3) in-stream sediment transport and deposition, and 4) general water quality dynamics. Methods for translating projected urban development into impervious land use cover are described and discussed in detail. Methods for estimating the runoff of water, nutrients, pesticides, and sediments from the landscapes based on current or projected land use are also considered. To complete the framework, models for simulating regional hydrology, water quality, and fish community processes are described and reviewed.
To illustrate how these components can be sequentially linked to assess fish health, a demonstration project aimed at assessing the ecological responses of fish communities within the Contentnea Creek watershed of the Albemarle-Pamlico basin is presented.
URLs/Downloads:REGIONAL ASSESSMENT OF FISH HEALTH: A PROTOTYPE METHODOLOGY AND CASE STUDY FOR THE ALBEMARLE-PAMLICO RIVER BASIN, NORTH CAROLINA (PDF,NA pp, 3642 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 LABORATORY
ECOSYSTEMS RESEARCH DIVISION
ECOSYSTEMS ASSESSMENT BRANCH