New highways are pervasive, pernicious threats to stream ecosystems because of their short- and long-term physical, chemical, and biological impacts. Unfortunately, standard environmental impact statements (EISs) and environmental assessments (EAs) focus narrowly on the initial direct impacts of construction and ignore other long-term indirect impacts. More thorough consideration of highway impacts, and, ultimately, better land use decisions may be facilitated by conceptualizing highway development in three stages: initial highway construction, highway presence, and eventual landscape urbanization. Highway construction is characterized by localized physical disturbances, which generally subside through time. In contrast, highway presence and landscape urbanization are characterized by physical and chemical impacts that are temporally persistent. Although the impacts of highway presence and landscape urbanization are of similar natures, the impacts are of a greater magnitude and more widespread in the urbanization phase. Our review reveals that the landscape urbanization stage is clearly the greatest threat to stream habitat and biota, as stream ecosystems are sensitive to even low levels (<10%) of watershed urban development. Although highway construction is ongoing, pervasive, and has severe biological consequences, we found few published investigations of its impacts on streams. Researchers know little about the occurrence, loading rates, and biotic responses to specific contaminants in highway runoff. Also needed is a detailed understanding of how highway crossings, especially culverts, affect fish populations via constraints on movement and how highway networks alter natural regimes (e.g., streamflow, temperature). Urbanization research topics that may yield especially useful results include a) the relative importance and biological effects of specific components of urban development - e.g., commercial or residential; b) the scenarios under which impacts are reversible; and c) the efficacy of mitigation measures - e.g., stormwater retention or treatment and forested buffers. Copyright ?? Taylor & Francis Inc.
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Impacts of new highways and subsequent landscape urbanization on stream habitat and biota