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Water: Healthy Watersheds

Biotic Condition Assessments

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Healthy Watersheds Home Concept, Approach & Benefits Aquatic Biodiversity Aquatic Resource Surveys Biotic Condition Assessment Framework Examples of Assessments Habitat and Biodiversity Conservation Hydrology/Geomorphology Green Infrastructure Conservation Approaches & Tools Where You Live Integrated Assessments Landscape Condition Local Land Use Ordinances Publications Outreach Tools Natural Disturbance Regimes Nonpoint Source Pollution River Corridor Protection

Communities of aquatic plants and animals reflect not only current conditions, but also changes in conditions over time and their cumulative impacts. Bioassessment data are invaluable for managing our aquatic resources and ecosystems.

EPA’s Bioassessment and Biocriteria Program
EPA's Bioassessment and Biocriteria Program lays out the key objectives for developing and implementing bioassessments and biocriteria for use in state and tribal water quality standards programs. Some of the guidance documents include:

National Aquatic Resource Surveys
The EPA’s National Aquatic Resource Surveys are probability-based surveys of the Nation’s rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands, and coastal waters reporting on the extent of waters that support healthy ecosystems, recreation, and fish consumption. The surveys provide a national picture of aquatic ecosystem health, as well as provide states with the means to evaluate the relationships between stressors, watershed characteristics, and the condition of waters to prioritize additional monitoring and management needs.

National Rivers and Streams Assessment (NRSA)
U.S. EPAs NRSA program will use a random sampling design to provide regional and national estimates of the condition of rivers and streams. Physical/Chemical water quality, as well as biological integrity will be assessed over time to better understand the condition of the Nation’s waters.

USGS Aquatic GAP Analysis Program
The goal of the Aquatic GAP Analysis Program is to keep common species common by identifying those species and communities that are not adequately represented in existing conservation areas or management plans. This website contains information on the concepts and methodology and provides links to state-specific Aquatic GAP projects.

Massachusetts Living Waters
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The Massachusetts Living Waters program Biologists use a GIS to delineate Core Habitats of freshwater species in Massachusetts. Critical Supporting Watersheds are also delineated and represent the lands having the most influence on the Core Habitat's biodiversity. Open space preservation opportunities are prioritized based on these delineations and potential threats to the water body.

New York State Natural Heritage Program Exit EPA Disclaimer
The Department of Environmental Conservation Natural Heritage Program's mission is to "facilitate conservation of New York's biodiversity by providing comprehensive information and scientific expertise on rare species and natural ecosystems to resource managers and other conservation partners." They form partnerships with various agencies to survey the state's biodiversity and exchange information among decision-makers.

Field Evaluation Manual for Ohio’s Primary Headwater Habitat Streams (PDF) [BROKEN] (66 pp, 1.02 MB, About PDF) Exit EPA Disclaimer
Because many "index of biotic integrity" assessment systems are watershed size dependent, they often cannot be used to identify the well being of the native fauna that survive and reproduce in small headwater stream ecosystems. This manual provides a method for assessing headwater stream habitats.

Montgomery County, Maryland Bioassessment Program
The County DEP monitors fish and benthic macroinvertebrates using protocols based on EPA's Rapid Bioassessment Protocols. The study design, field methods, and definition of interim reference conditions (Van Ness et al., 1997) were developed by consensus through the county's biological monitoring workgroup.


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