In 2003, eighty-three percent of Americans lived in metropolitan areas, and considerable population increases are predicted within the next 50 years. Nowhere are the environmental changes associated with urban development more evident than in urban streams. Contaminants, habitat destruction, and increasing streamflow flashiness resulting from urban development have been associated with the disruption of biological communities, particularly the loss of sensitive aquatic biota. Every stream is connected downstream to other water bodies, and inputs of contaminants and (or) sediments to streams can cause degradation downstream with adverse effects on biological communities and on economically valuable resources, such as fisheries and tourism. Understanding how algal, invertebrate, and fish communities respond to physical and chemical stressors associated with urban development can provide important clues on how multiple stressors may be managed to protect stream health as a watershed becomes increasingly urbanized. This fact sheet highlights selected findings of a comprehensive assessment by the National Water-Quality Assessment Program of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) of the effects of urban development on stream ecosystems in nine metropolitan study areas.
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USGS Numbered Series
Urban development results in stressors that degrade stream ecosystems