Linking watershed landuse to ecological indicators in streams and subestuaries of Chesapeake Bay
Ryan S. King, Dennis F. Whigham, Anson H. Hines, Peter P. Marra, Charles A. Gallegos, Donald E. Weller, Thomas E. Jordan
The Atlantic Slope Consortium is a multi-institution research partnership to develop a socioeconomic and ecological assessment framework for watersheds and estuaries in the mid-Atlantic region. A significant goal of this effort is to identify linkages among of watershed landuse/landcover, stream and riparian networks, and subestuaries of Chesapeake Bay. In 2002 and 2003, we sampled streams and subestuaries from 31 watersheds that spanned gradients in landuse ranging from largely forested to highly developed or agricultural. Ecological indicators included water quality, faunal habitat, Phragmites abundance and nutrient content, benthic macroinvertebrates, birds, fish assemblages, contaminants in fish, and estuarine optical properties. Preliminary results suggested a relatively consistent linkage between development and degraded ecological condition, while the effect of agriculture on most indicators was equivocal. Given the trend of continued human population growth in coastal areas and the concomitant replacement of forests and agriculture with development, our results may have important implications for management of coastal watersheds.
Keywords: ecological indicators; estuaries; watersheds; landuse

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