3 years ago

Predictive Mapping of the Biotic Condition of Conterminous-USA Rivers and Streams

Ryan A. Hill, Darren J. Thornbrugh, Marc H. Weber, Eric W. Fox, Anthony R. Olsen, Scott G. Leibowitz
Understanding and mapping the spatial variation in stream biological condition could provide an important tool for conservation, assessment, and restoration of stream ecosystems. The USEPA's 2008-2009 National Rivers and Streams Assessment (NRSA) summarizes the percent of stream lengths within the conterminous US that are in good, fair, or poor biological condition based on a multimetric index of benthic invertebrate assemblages. However, condition is usually summarized at regional or national scales, and these assessments do not provide substantial insight into the spatial distribution of conditions at unsampled locations. We used random forests to model and predict the probable condition of several million kilometers of streams across the conterminous US based on nearby and upstream landscape features, including human-related alterations to watersheds. To do so, we linked NRSA sample sites to the USEPA's StreamCat Dataset; a database of several hundred landscape metrics for all 1:100,000-scale streams and their associated watersheds within the conterminous US. The StreamCat data provided geospatial indicators of nearby and upstream land use, land cover, climate, and other landscape features for modeling. Nationally, the model correctly predicted the biological condition class of 75% of NRSA sites. Although model evaluations suggested good discrimination among condition classes, we present maps as predicted probabilities of good condition, given upstream and nearby landscape settings. Inversely, the maps can be interpreted as the probability of a stream being in poor condition, given human-related watershed alterations. These predictions are available for download from the USEPA's StreamCat website (https://w w w .epa. gov/national-aquatic-resource-surveys/streamcat). Finally, we illustrate how these predictions could be used to prioritize streams for conservation or restoration. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1002/eap.1617

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