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Keywords:

  • urbanization;
  • watershed management;
  • fluvial processes;
  • restoration;
  • invertebrates

Fitzgerald, Evan P., William B. Bowden, Samuel P. Parker, and Michael L. Kline, 2012. Urban Impacts on Streams Are Scale-Dependent with Nonlinear Influences on Their Physical and Biotic Recovery in Vermont, United States. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 48(4): 679-697. DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2012.00639.x

Abstract:  The physical and biological conditions of stream reaches in 16 watersheds within the Lake Champlain Basin of Vermont, United States, were assessed and analyzed for a response to total impervious area (TIA) at multiple spatial scales. Natural gradients (e.g., channel slope) and human impacts to channel boundary conditions (e.g., bank armoring) were considered to ensure a robust test of the Impervious Cover Model for upslope TIA. The response of geomorphic stability and sensitive macroinvertebrates to TIA was nonlinear and significant (< 0.001), decreasing rapidly at 5% TIA. The effect of urbanization on stream condition was shown to interact significantly with drainage area and channel slope using the analysis of covariance (ANCOVA) (< 0.05). Hydraulic geometry regressions for urban and rural watersheds and ANCOVA were used to describe a significant watershed scale-dependent response of channel width to urbanization (= 0.001). The analysis of macroinvertebrate data from reaches in different stages of channel evolution indicated that stable reaches supported greater richness of pollution intolerant species (< 0.001) and overall taxa richness (< 0.01) than unstable reaches, and that biotic integrity improves as channels regain stability during their evolution into a state of quasi-equilibrium. We conclude that macroinvertebrate communities can respond positively to channel evolution processes leading to natural channel restabilization.