Role of Stream Restoration on Improving Benthic Macroinvertebrates and In-Stream Water Quality in an Urban Watershed: Case Study

  • Selvakumar A
  • O’Connor T
  • Struck S
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Abstract

Many stream restoration projects do not include a requirement for long-term monitoring after the project has been completed, resulting in a lack of information about the success or failure of certain restoration techniques. The National Risk Management Research Laboratory, part of the U.S. EPA Office of Research and Development, evaluated the effectiveness of stream bank and channel restoration as a means of improving in-stream water quality and biological habitat in Accotink Creek, Fairfax City, Va., using discrete sampling and continuous monitoring techniques before and after restoration. This project monitored the effects of a 549 m 1,800 linear-ft restoration of degraded stream channel in the North Fork of Accotink Creek. Restoration, which was intended to restore the stream channel to a stable condition, thereby reducing stream bank erosion and sediment loads in the stream, included installation of native plant materials along the stream and bioengineering structures to stabilize the stream channel and bank. Results of sampling and monitoring for 2 years after restoration indicated a slight improvement in biological quality for macroinvertebrate indices such as Virginia Stream Condition Index, Hilsenhoff Biotic Index, and Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, Trichoptera taxa; the differences were statistically significant at 90% level of confidence with the power of greater than 0.8. However, indices were all below the impairment level, indicating poor water quality conditions. No statistically significant differences in chemical constituents and bacteriological indicator organisms were found before and after restoration as well as upstream and downstream of the restoration. The results indicated that stream restoration alone had little effect in improving the conditions of in-stream water quality and biological habitat, though it has lessened further degradation of stream banks in critical areas where the properties were at risk. Control of storm-water flows by placing best management practices in the watershed might reduce and delay discharge to the stream and may ultimately improve habitat and water quality conditions.

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Authors

  • Ariamalar Selvakumar

  • Thomas P. O’Connor

  • Scott D. Struck

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