A Comparison of Protocols and Observer Precision for Measuring Physical Stream Attributes1

Authors

  • Heath W. Whitacre,

    1. Hydrologist, Aquatic, Watershed, and Earth Resources Department, Utah State University, 5210 University Hill, Logan, Utah 84322-5210 [Whitacre now at U.S. Forest Service, Tongass National Forest, Petersburg Ranger District, 12 Nordic Dr. Petersburg, Alaska 99833]; Aquatic Monitoring Center Program Leader, Fish and Aquatic Ecology Unit, U.S. Forest Service, Logan Forestry Science Laboratory, 860 North 1200 East, Logan, Utah 84321; and Center Director, Fish and Aquatic Ecology Unit, U.S. Forest Service, Aquatic, Watershed, and Earth Resources Department, Utah State University, 5210 University Hill, Logan, Utah 84322-5210 [Kershner now at U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, 211 AJM Johnson Hall, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana 59717-3492] (E-Mail/Whitacre: hwhitacre@fs.fed.us).
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  • Brett B. Roper,

    1. Hydrologist, Aquatic, Watershed, and Earth Resources Department, Utah State University, 5210 University Hill, Logan, Utah 84322-5210 [Whitacre now at U.S. Forest Service, Tongass National Forest, Petersburg Ranger District, 12 Nordic Dr. Petersburg, Alaska 99833]; Aquatic Monitoring Center Program Leader, Fish and Aquatic Ecology Unit, U.S. Forest Service, Logan Forestry Science Laboratory, 860 North 1200 East, Logan, Utah 84321; and Center Director, Fish and Aquatic Ecology Unit, U.S. Forest Service, Aquatic, Watershed, and Earth Resources Department, Utah State University, 5210 University Hill, Logan, Utah 84322-5210 [Kershner now at U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, 211 AJM Johnson Hall, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana 59717-3492] (E-Mail/Whitacre: hwhitacre@fs.fed.us).
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  • Jeffrey L. Kershner

    1. Hydrologist, Aquatic, Watershed, and Earth Resources Department, Utah State University, 5210 University Hill, Logan, Utah 84322-5210 [Whitacre now at U.S. Forest Service, Tongass National Forest, Petersburg Ranger District, 12 Nordic Dr. Petersburg, Alaska 99833]; Aquatic Monitoring Center Program Leader, Fish and Aquatic Ecology Unit, U.S. Forest Service, Logan Forestry Science Laboratory, 860 North 1200 East, Logan, Utah 84321; and Center Director, Fish and Aquatic Ecology Unit, U.S. Forest Service, Aquatic, Watershed, and Earth Resources Department, Utah State University, 5210 University Hill, Logan, Utah 84322-5210 [Kershner now at U.S. Geological Survey, Northern Rocky Mountain Science Center, 211 AJM Johnson Hall, Montana State University, Bozeman, Montana 59717-3492] (E-Mail/Whitacre: hwhitacre@fs.fed.us).
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  • 1

    Paper No. J05093 of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA). Discussions are open until February 1, 2008.

Abstract

Abstract:  Stream monitoring programs commonly measure physical attributes to assess the effect of land management on stream habitat. Variability associated with the measurement of these attributes has been linked to a number of factors, but few studies have evaluated variability due to differences in protocols. We compared six protocols, five used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service and one by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, on six streams in Oregon and Idaho to determine whether differences in protocol affect values for 10 physical stream attributes. Results from Oregon and Idaho were combined for groups participating in both states, with significant differences in attribute means for 9 out of the 10 stream attributes. Significant differences occurred in 5 of 10 in Idaho, and 10 of 10 in Oregon. Coefficients of variation, signal-to-noise ratio, and root mean square error were used to evaluate measurement precision. There were differences among protocols for all attributes when states were analyzed separately and as a combined dataset. Measurement differences were influenced by choice of instruments, measurement method, measurement location, attribute definitions, and training approach. Comparison of data gathered by observers using different protocols will be difficult unless a core set of protocols for commonly measured stream attributes can be standardized among monitoring programs.

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