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.
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The authors would like to thank all the participants of symposium. The presentations are available at http://www.epa.gov/emap/html/pubs/docs/groupdocs/ symposia/symp2002.html. Symposium references include material from the oral presentation, slides, or the abstract. The information in this document has been funded wholly by the US Environmental Protection Agency. It has been subjected to review by the National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory and approved for publication. Approval does not signify that the contents reflect the views of the Agency, nor does mention of trade names or commercial products constitute endorsement or recommendation for use.
This paper examines the components of assessment strategies, namely sampling designs, scales, and indicators, discusses their alignment with management needs and ecosystem characteristics of great rivers, and contemplates how they could be used for more comprehensive assessments. We attempt to distill ideas presented as part of a symposium sponsored by the Council of State Governments and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) (Hill and Blair, 2005). Invited speakers, contributed posters, and a facilitated discussion showcased the collective experience of managers and researchers, particularly on the Missouri, Mississippi, and Ohio rivers. We tapped this experience to illustrate how programs attempt to align management goals, ecological theory, designs, scales, and ecological indicators in order to effectively assess and monitor great rivers.
1U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Mid-Continent Ecology Division, 6201 Congdon Blvd. Duluth, Minnesota, USA; 2U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development, National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory, Mid-Continent Ecology Division, 999 18th Street, Denver, Colorado, USA (∗author for correspondence, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Ecological assessment
- Ecological indicators
- Ecosystem monitoring
- Great Rivers