Contemplating the assessment of great river ecosystems

David W. Bolgrien, Ted R. Angradi, E. William Schweiger, John R. Kelly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


The science and practice of assessing the status and trends of ecological conditions in great rivers have not kept pace with perturbation wrought on these systems. Participants at a symposium sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and the Council of State Governments concluded that useful and efficient assessments of great river ecosystems require thoughtful alignment of sampling designs, spatial and temporal scales, indicators, management needs, and ecosystem characteristics. Site-specific physical, chemical, and biological data long accumulated by monitoring programs have value but fail to provide the integrated system-wide perspective required for adaptive management and the Clean Water Act. Use of existing data may be limited by methodological incompatibilities, access difficulties, and the exclusive applicability of data to specific habitats or sites. The transition from site-specific to system-wide assessments benefits from research being done by USEPA's Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) and other programs that use probability surveys and biological indicators. Indicators of various taxa (in particular fish, algae, and benthic invertebrates) have been successfully developed for great rivers. However, optimizing the information these ecological indicators convey to managers and the public is the subject of ongoing research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5-20
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - Apr 1 2005


  • EMAP
  • Ecological assessment
  • Ecological indicators
  • Ecosystem monitoring
  • Great Rivers

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