• aquatic ecology;
  • urbanization;
  • water quality;
  • fish;
  • Illinois

ABSTRACT: Biotic indices and sediment trace element concentrations for 43 streams in northeastern Illinois (Chicago area) from the 1980s and 1990s were examined along an agricultural to urban land cover gradient to explore the relations among biotic integrity, sediment chemistry, and urbanization. The Illinois fish Alternative Index of Biotic Integrity (AIBI) ranged from poor to excellent in agricultural/rural streams, but streams with more than 10 percent watershed urban land (about 500 people/mi2) had fair or poor index scores. A macroinvertebrate index (MBI) showed similar trends. A qualitative habitat index (PIBI) did not correlate to either urban indicator. The AIBI and MBI correlated with urban associated sediment trace element concentrations. Elevated copper concentrations in sediment occurred in streams with greater than 40 percent watershed urban land. The number of intolerant fish species and modified index of biotic integrity scores increased in some rural, urbanizing, and urban streams from the 1980s to 1990s, with the largest increases occurring in rural streams with loamy/sandy surficial deposits. However, smaller increases also occurred in urban streams with clayey surficial deposits and over 50 percent watershed urban land. These data illustrate the potentially complex spatial and temporal relations among biotic integrity, sediment chemistry, watershed urban land, population density, and regional and local geologic setting.