Stream biodiversity: The ghost of land use past

J. S. Harding, E. F. Benfield, P. V. Bolstad, G. S. Helfman, E. B.D. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

727 Scopus citations


The influence of past land use on the present-day diversity of stream invertebrates and fish was investigated by comparing watersheds with different land-use history. Whole watershed land use in the 1950s was the best predictor of present-day diversity, whereas riparian land use and watershed land use in the 1990s were comparatively poor indicators. Our findings indicate that past land-use activity, particularly agriculture, may result in long-term modifications to and reductions in aquatic diversity, regardless of reforestation of riparian zones. Preservation of habitat fragments may not be sufficient to maintain natural diversity in streams, and maintenance of such biodiversity may require conservation of much or all of the watershed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)14843-14847
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number25
StatePublished - Dec 8 1998


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