The US Geological Survey conducted an urban land-use study in the New England Coastal Basins (NECB) area during 2001 to determine how urbanization relates to changes in the ecological condition of streams. Thirty sites were selected that differed in their level of watershed development (low to high). An urban intensity value was calculated for each site from 24 landscape variables. Together, these 30 values reppresented a gradient of urban intensity. Among various biological, chemical, and physical factors surveyed at each site, benthic invertebrate assemblages were sampled from stream riffles and also from multiple habitats along the length of the sampling reach. We use some of the NECB data to derive a four-variable urbanintensity index (NECB-UII), where each variable represents a distinct component of urbanization: increasing human presence, expanding infrastructure, landscape development, and riparian vegetation loss. Using the NECB-UII as a characterization of urbanization, we describe how landscape fragmentation occurs with urbanization and how changes in the invertebrate assemblages, represented by metrics of ecological condition, are related to urbanization. Metrics with a strong linear response included EPT taxa richness, percentage richness of non-insect taxa, and pollution-tolerance values. Additionally, we describe how these relations can help in estimating the expected condition of a stream for its level of urbanization, thereby establishing a baseline for evaluating possible affects from specific point-source stressors.
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Judging a brook by its cover: The relation between ecological condition of a stream and urban land cover in new England