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CADDIS Volume 2: Sources, Stressors & Responses

energy sources physical habitat hydrology temperature water and sediment quality stormwater runoff wastewater inputs riparian and channel alteration urbanization

Urbanization & biotic integrity

Numerous studies have examined relationships between land use variables and stream biota, and shown that urban-related land uses can significantly alter stream assemblages.

Land use variables considered include % urban land (in the catchment and in riparian areas), % impervious surface area (total and effective), road density and other measures of urbanization.

Biotic responses associated with these land use variables include (but are not limited to):


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Figure 2. Plot of a measure of biotic homogenization [relative abundance of Appalachian highland endemic fishes – relative abundance of cosmopolitan fishes] on the first axis of a principal components analysis of three catchment land use variables [1993 forest cover, forest cover change from 1970s–1990s, and urbanization intensity (normalized catchment building + road density)]. Sites with higher forest cover and lower urban intensity had more endemic taxa (e.g., fishes such as the Tennessee shiner and the mottled sculpin, above left), while sites with lower forest cover and higher urban intensity had more broadly distributed, generalist taxa (e.g., fishes such as the redbreast sunfish and central stoneroller, above right).
From Scott MC. 2006. Winners and losers among stream fishes in relation to land use legacies and urban development in the southeastern US. Biological Conservation 127:301-309. Reprinted with permission from Elsevier.
Photos courtesy of Noel Burkhead, USGS.

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