A 7-year study of benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages in the Schuylkill River Basin – a combination of applied research and community outreach in an urban river basin
Jackson, John K.,
Lieb, David A.,
Sweeney, Bernard W.
The Schuylkill River Basin (4950 km2) has long represented a valuable resource to its inhabitants, from the original Native Americans through the early European colonialists and industrial revolution to the present mix of urban, suburban, and rural developments that characterize the Philadelphia metropolitan area. In using this resource, most of the streams and rivers in the basin have been dammed, diverted, pumped, and/or polluted at one time or another. This study was designed to use aquatic macroinvertebrates such as insects, worms, and crayfish that live in the river and its tributaries to assess current conditions at 19 sites. Students were used to process samples and interpret data similar to the activities of volunteer monitoring programs. The19 sites were on major tributaries or branches, and the watershed areas upstream of the sites represented 57% of total basin area. Each site integrates land and water use over a relatively large area (14-774 km2). A wide range of conditions was observed, from good to poor. Variation among years was great enough to affect site assessments for individual years. However, most sites where macroinvertebrate assemblages indicated degraded conditions were in watersheds with significant urban or mining development. This study illustrates how data from students or volunteer organizations can be used to identify areas that need protection and areas that need attention, even in a complex river basin than reflects both present and past use. The study also illustrates the importance of basing stream assessments on multiple sites over multiple years.
stream, insect, monitoring, assessment, annual variation