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THE EFFECTS OF URBAN AREAS ON BENTHIC MACROINVERTEBRATES IN TWO COLORADO PLAINS RIVERS

Research paper by NEAL J. VOELZ, ROBERT E. ZUELLIG, SEN-HER SHIEH, J. V. WARD

Indexed on: 01 Jan '05Published on: 01 Jan '05Published in: Environmental Monitoring and Assessment



Abstract

Water demands in arid and semi-arid areas, coupled with increased human populations and concomitant changes in land use, can greatly alter aquatic ecosystems. A good example of this type of system occurs along the eastern slope of the Colorado Rocky Mountains, U.S.A. Long-term macroinvertebrate metric data from the Big Thompson and Cache la Poudre Rivers, Colorado, were collected at one site above, and three sites in and downstream from urban areas. These data were compared both with regional reference and single reference sites in the respective rivers. Using the surrogate variables of potential urban impact (population and housing units), and the environmental gradient represented primarily by chemical factors, it was determined that there was an effect of urban land use that was reflected in the macroinvertebrate assemblages in both rivers. The most robust results were usually seen when regional reference data were used. However, even using only the upstream reference site in either river indicated some negative impacts from the urban areas. The long-term data, particularly in the Cache la Poudre River, showed that water quality has not been getting worse and there is some evidence of a slight improvement in downstream reaches, even with increased urban development.