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An evaluation of a bed instability index as an indicator of habitat quality in mountain streams of the northwestern United States

Kusnierz, Paul C., Holbrook, Christopher M., Feldman, David L.
Environmental monitoring and assessment 2015 v.187 no.8 pp. 511
anthropogenic activities, data collection, ecoregions, habitats, macroinvertebrates, managers, sediments, stream channels, United States
Managers of aquatic resources benefit from indices of habitat quality that are reproducible and easy to measure, demonstrate a link between habitat quality and biota health, and differ between human-impacted (i.e., managed) and reference (i.e., nonimpacted or minimally impacted) conditions. The instability index (ISI) is an easily measured index that describes the instability of a streambed by relating the tractive force of a stream at bankfull discharge to the median substrate size. Previous studies have linked ISI to biological condition but have been limited to comparisons of sites within a single stream or among a small number of streams. We tested ISI as an indicator of human impact to habitat and biota in mountain streams of the northwestern USA. Among 1428 sites in six northwestern states, ISI was correlated with other habitat measures (e.g., residual pool depth, percent fine sediment) and indices of biotic health (e.g., number of intolerant macroinvertebrate taxa, fine sediment biotic index) and differed between managed and reference sites across a range of stream types and ecoregions. While ISI could be useful in mountain streams throughout the world, this index may be of particular interest to aquatic resource managers in the northwestern USA where a large dataset, from which ISI can be calculated, exists.