Linking stream and landscape trajectories in the southern Appalachians

Edward P. Gardiner, Andrew B. Sutherland, Rebecca J. Bixby, Mark C. Scott, Judy L. Meyer, Gene S. Helfman, E. Fred Benfield, Cathy M. Pringle, Paul V. Bolstad, David N. Wear

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


A proactive sampling strategy was designed and implemented in 2000 to document changes in streams whose catchment land uses were predicted to change over the next two decades due to increased building density. Diatoms, macroinvertebrates, fishes, suspended sediment, dissolved solids, and bed composition were measured at two reference sites and six sites where a socioeconomic model suggested new building construction would influence stream ecosystems in the future; we label these "hazard sites." The six hazard sites were located in catchments with forested and agricultural land use histories. Diatoms were species-poor at reference sites, where riparian forest cover was significantly higher than all other sites. Cluster analysis, Wishart's distance function, non-metric multidimensional scaling, indicator species analysis, and t-tests show that macroinvertebrate assemblages, fish assemblages, in situ physical measures, and catchment land use and land cover were different between streams whose catchments were mostly forested, relative to those with agricultural land use histories and varying levels of current and predicted development. Comparing initial results with other regional studies, we predict homogenization of fauna with increased nutrient inputs and sediment associated with agricultural sites where more intense building activities are occurring. Based on statistical separability of sampled sites, catchment classes were identified and mapped throughout an 8,600 km2 region in western North Carolina's Blue Ridge physiographic province. The classification is a generalized representation of two ongoing trajectories of land use change that we suggest will support streams with diverging biota and physical conditions over the next two decades.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-36
Number of pages20
JournalEnvironmental Monitoring and Assessment
Issue number1-4
StatePublished - 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements This work was conducted with support from NSF grant DEB-9632854 to the University of Georgia Coweeta Long Term Ecological Research Program. We appreciate the thoughtful input of reviewers of an earlier version of this manuscript, including David Strayer.


  • Biotic response
  • Catchment classification
  • Ecological forecasting
  • Land use change
  • Stream ecology
  • Water chemistry
  • Water shed


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