Physical and Water Quality Assessment Indices

Efforts to predict site specific natural conditions for water quality and physical habitat across regional scales are recent, and most attempts to set benchmarks for these indicators rely on best professional judgement, taxa specific tolerance values (e.g. Cormier et al. 2018), stressor specific biotic indices (e.g. McKenzie et al. 2022), or range of reference site values within ecoregion. 

We are aware of the following site-specific models which can be used to set benchmarks:

  • Total nitrogen and phosphorus (Olson and Hawkins 2013)
  • Specific conductance (Olson and Hawkins 2012, Olson and Cormier 2019)
  • Stream temperature (Hill et al. 2013)

We are aware of the following site-specific models for physical habitat assessments which have be used to set benchmarks

  • Columbia river basin in-stream habitat MMI (Al-Chokhachy et al. 2010)
  • Relative bed stability, instream habitat complexity, and riparian habitat complexity (Kaufmann et al. 2022a, 2022b)

Alternatively, at local scales many process based models (e.g. SWAT) are used for assessments but are too data intensive for many monitoring applications (Yuan et al. 2020).

Literature Cited

  • Al-Chokhachy, R., B. B. Roper, and E. K. Archer. 2010. Evaluating the Status and Trends of Physical Stream Habitat in Headwater Streams within the Interior Columbia River and Upper Missouri River Basins Using an Index Approach. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 139:1041–1059.
  • Cormier, S. M., L. Zheng, and C. M. Flaherty. 2018. A field-based model of the relationship between extirpation of salt-intolerant benthic invertebrates and background conductivity. Science of The Total Environment 633:1629–1636.
  • Hill, R. a., C. P. Hawkins, and D. M. Carlisle. 2013. Predicting thermal reference conditions for USA streams and rivers. Freshwater Science 32:39–55.
    Kaufmann, P. R., R. M. Hughes, S. G. Paulsen, D. V. Peck, C. W. Seeliger, T. Kincaid, and R. M. Mitchell. 2022a. Physical habitat in conterminous US streams and Rivers, part 2: A quantitative assessment of habitat condition. Ecological Indicators 141:109047.
  • Kaufmann, P. R., R. M. Hughes, S. G. Paulsen, D. V. Peck, C. W. Seeliger, M. H. Weber, and R. M. Mitchell. 2022b. Physical habitat in conterminous US streams and rivers, Part 1: Geoclimatic controls and anthropogenic alteration. Ecological Indicators 141:109046.
  • McKenzie, M., J. England, I. Foster, and M. Wilkes. 2022. Evaluating the performance of taxonomic and trait-based biomonitoring approaches for fine sediment in the UK. Ecological Indicators 134:108502.
  • Olson, J. R., and S. M. Cormier. 2019. Modeling Spatial and Temporal Variation in Natural Background Specific Conductivity. Environmental Science & Technology 53:4316–4325.
  • Olson, J. R., and C. P. Hawkins. 2012. Predicting natural base-flow stream water chemistry in the western United States. Water Resources Research 48:1–19.
  • Olson, J. R., and C. P. Hawkins. 2013. Developing site-specific nutrient criteria from empirical models. Freshwater Science 32:719–740.
  • Yuan, L., T. Sinshaw, and K. J. Forshay. 2020. Review of Watershed-Scale Water Quality and Nonpoint Source Pollution Models. Geosciences 10:25.