A comparison of macroinvertebrate and habitat methods of data collection in the Little Colorado River Watershed, Arizona 2007

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<p>The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP), use different field methods for collecting macroinvertebrate samples and habitat data for bioassessment purposes. Arizona’s Biocriteria index was developed using a riffle habitat sampling methodology, whereas the EMAP method employs a multi-habitat sampling protocol. There was a need to demonstrate comparability of these different bioassessment methodologies to allow use of the EMAP multi-habitat protocol for both statewide probabilistic assessments for integration of the EMAP data into the national (305b) assessment and for targeted in-state bioassessments for 303d determinations of standards violations and impaired aquatic life conditions. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether the two methods yield similar bioassessment results, such that the data could be used interchangeably in water quality assessments. In this Regional EMAP grant funded project, a probabilistic survey of 30 sites in the Little Colorado River basin was conducted in the spring of 2007. Macroinvertebrate and habitat data were collected using both ADEQ and EMAP sampling methods, from adjacent reaches within these stream channels. </p> <br/> <p>All analyses indicated that the two macroinvertebrate sampling methods were significantly correlated. ADEQ and EMAP samples were classified into the same scoring categories (meeting, inconclusive, violating the biocriteria standard) 82% of the time. When the ADEQ-IBI was applied to both the ADEQ and EMAP taxa lists, the resulting IBI scores were significantly correlated (r=0.91), even though only 4 of the 7 metrics in the IBI were significantly correlated. The IBI scores from both methods were significantly correlated to the percent of riffle habitat, even though the average percent riffle habitat was only 30% of the stream reach. Multivariate analyses found that the percent riffle was an important attribute for both datasets in classifying IBI scores into assessment categories.</p> <br/> <p>Habitat measurements generated from EMAP and ADEQ methods were also significantly correlated; 13 of 16 habitat measures were significantly correlated (p<0.01). The visual-based percentage estimates of percent riffle and pool habitats, vegetative cover and percent canopy cover, and substrate measurements of percent fine substrate and embeddedness were all remarkably similar, given the different field methods used. A multivariate analysis identified substrate and flow conditions, as well as canopy cover as important combinations of habitat attributes affecting both IBI scores. These results indicate that similar habitat measures can be obtained using two different field sampling protocols. In addition, similar combinations of these habitat parameters were important to macroinvertebrate community condition in multivariate analyses of both ADEQ and EMAP datasets.</p> <br/> <p>These results indicate the two sampling methods for macroinvertebrates and habitat data were very similar in terms of bioassessment results and stressors. While the bioassessment category was not identical for all sites, overall the assessments were significantly correlated, providing similar bioassessment results for the cold water streams used in this study. The findings of this study indicate that ADEQ can utilize either a riffle-based sampling methodology or a multi-habitat sampling approach in cold water streams as both yield similar results relative to the macroinvertebrate assemblage. These results will allow for use of either macroinvertebrate dataset to determine water quality standards compliance with the ADEQ Indexes of Biological Integrity, for which threshold values were just recently placed into the Arizona Surface Water Quality Standards. While this survey did not include warm water desert streams of Arizona, we would predict that EMAP and ADEQ sampling methodologies would provide similar bioassessment results and would not be significantly different, as we have found that the percent riffle habitat in cold and warm water perennial, wadeable streams is not significantly different. However, a comparison study of sampling methodologies in warm water streams should be conducted to confirm the predicted similarity of bioassessment results. ADEQ will continue to implement a monitoring strategy that includes probabilistic monitoring for a statewide ecological assessment of stream conditions. Conclusions from this study will guide decisions regarding the most appropriate sampling methods for future probabilistic monitoring sample plans.</p>

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Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Title A comparison of macroinvertebrate and habitat methods of data collection in the Little Colorado River Watershed, Arizona 2007
Series number 10-05
Subseries OFR
Year Published 2007
Contributing office(s) Arizona Water Science Center
Country United States
State Arizona
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N
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