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Effects of Urbanization on Stream Ecosystems


Effects of Urbanization on Stream Ecosystems

Study Area: Washington, Oregon, California, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Minnesota, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, Maine
Period of Project: 2000 to 2012
Project Number:
Project Chief: Gerald McMahon


As land areas urbanize, stream ecosystems can be substantially altered. Changes in the landscape as a watershed urbanizes may cause changes in stream hydrology, water quality, physical habitat, and water temperature that are known to have profound effects on aquatic communities of algae, invertebrate and fish. Understanding these interrelationships may contribute to informed decisions that result in practical and effective water-resource management and strategies that protect and restore stream ecosystems.


  1. Determine the physical, chemical, and biological responses of stream systems to a gradient of increasing urban intensity.
  2. Determine the most important landscape features driving hydrologic, chemical, geomorphic, habitat, and ecological responses to urbanization.
  3. Determine the physical and chemical factors associated with biological responses.
  4. Compare these responses among metropolitan areas located in different geographic settings (climate, geology, hydrology, biology, water use) across the United States.

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