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Augusta, ME, United States

Shumchenia E.J.,University of Rhode Island | Shumchenia E.J.,E&C Enviroscape LLC | Pelletier M.C.,US Ecology | Cicchetti G.,US Ecology | And 4 more authors.
Environmental Management | Year: 2014

Coastal ecosystems are affected by ever-increasing natural and human pressures. Because the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics unique to estuarine ecosystems control the ways that biological resources respond to ecosystem stressors, we present a flexible and adaptable biological assessment method for estuaries. The biological condition gradient (BCG) is a scientific framework of biological response to increasing anthropogenic stress that is comprehensive and ecosystem based and evaluates environmental conditions and the status of ecosystem services in order to identify, communicate, and prioritize management action. Using existing data, we constructed the first estuarine BCG framework that examines changes in habitat structure through time. Working in a New England (U.S.) estuary with a long history of human influence, we developed an approach to define a reference level, which we described as a “minimally disturbed” range of conditions for the ecosystem, anchored by observations before 1850 AD. Like many estuaries in the U.S., the relative importance of environmental stressors changed over time, but even qualitative descriptions of the biological indicators’ status provided useful information for defining condition levels. This BCG demonstrated that stressors rarely acted alone and that declines in one biological indicator influenced the declines of others. By documenting the biological responses to cumulative stressors, the BCG inherently suggests an ecosystem-based approach to management. Additionally, the BCG process initiates thinking over long time scales and can be used to inspire scientists, managers, and the public toward environmental action. © 2014, Springer Science+Business Media New York.

Danielson T.J.,7 State House Station | Loftin C.S.,U.S. Geological Survey | Tsomides L.,7 State House Station | Difranco J.L.,12 Canco Road | And 4 more authors.
Freshwater Science | Year: 2012

State water-quality professionals developing new biological assessment methods often have difficulty relating assessment results to narrative criteria in water-quality standards. An alternative to selecting index thresholds arbitrarily is to include the Biological Condition Gradient (BCG) in the development of the assessment method. The BCG describes tiers of biological community condition to help identify and communicate the position of a water body along a gradient of water quality ranging from natural to degraded. Although originally developed for fish and macroinvertebrate communities of streams and rivers, the BCG is easily adapted to other habitats and taxonomic groups. We developed a discriminant analysis model with stream algal data to predict attainment of tiered aquatic-life uses in Maine's water-quality standards. We modified the BCG framework for Maine stream algae, related the BCG tiers to Maine's tiered aquatic-life uses, and identified appropriate algal metrics for describing BCG tiers. Using a modified Delphi method, 5 aquatic biologists independently evaluated algal community metrics for 230 samples from streams and rivers across the state and assigned a BCG tier (1-6) and Maine water quality class (AA/A, B, C, nonattainment of any class) to each sample. We used minimally disturbed reference sites to approximate natural conditions (Tier 1). Biologist class assignments were unanimous for 53% of samples, and 42% of samples differed by 1 class. The biologists debated and developed consensus class assignments. A linear discriminant model built to replicate a priori class assignments correctly classified 95% of 150 samples in the model training set and 91% of 80 samples in the model validation set. Locally derived metrics based on BCG taxon tolerance groupings (e.g., sensitive, intermediate, tolerant) were more effective than were metrics developed in other regions. Adding the algal discriminant model to Maine's existing macroinvertebrate discriminant model will broaden detection of biological impairment and further diagnose sources of impairment. The algal discriminant model is specific to Maine, but our approach of explicitly tying an assessment tool to tiered aquatic-life goals is widely transferrable to other regions, taxonomic groups, and waterbody types. © 2012 The Society for Freshwater Science.

Danielson T.J.,7 State House Station | Loftin C.S.,U.S. Geological Survey | Tsomides L.,7 State House Station | Difranco J.L.,12 Canco Road | Connors B.,12 Canco Road
Journal of the North American Benthological Society | Year: 2011

Many state water-quality agencies use biological assessment methods based on lotic fish and macroinvertebrate communities, but relatively few states have incorporated algal multimetric indices into monitoring programs. Algae are good indicators for monitoring water quality because they are sensitive to many environmental stressors. We evaluated benthic algal community attributes along a landuse gradient affecting wadeable streams and rivers in Maine, USA, to identify potential bioassessment metrics. We collected epilithic algal samples from 193 locations across the state. We computed weighted-average optima for common taxa for total P, total N, specific conductance, % impervious cover, and % developed watershed, which included all land use that is no longer forest or wetland. We assigned Maine stream tolerance values and categories (sensitive, intermediate, tolerant) to taxa based on their optima and responses to watershed disturbance. We evaluated performance of algal community metrics used in multimetric indices from other regions and novel metrics based on Maine data. Metrics specific to Maine data, such as the relative richness of species characterized as being sensitive in Maine, were more correlated with % developed watershed than most metrics used in other regions. Few community-structure attributes (e.g., species richness) were useful metrics in Maine. Performance of algal bioassessment models would be improved if metrics were evaluated with attributes of local data before inclusion in multimetric indices or statistical models. © 2011 by The North American Benthological Society.

Charlestra L.,University of Maine, United States | Charlestra L.,Columbia University | Amirbahman A.,University of Maine, United States | Courtemanch D.L.,7 State House Station | And 2 more authors.
Environmental Pollution | Year: 2012

The polar organic chemical integrative sampler (POCIS) was calibrated to monitor pesticides in water under controlled laboratory conditions. The effect of natural organic matter (NOM) on the sampling rates (R s) was evaluated in microcosms containing <0.1-5 mg L -1 of total organic carbon (TOC). The effect of hydrodynamics was studied by comparing R s values measured in stirred (SBE) and quiescent (QBE) batch experiments and a flow-through system (FTS). The level of NOM in the water used in these experiments had no effect on the magnitude of the pesticide sampling rates (p > 0.05). However, flow velocity and turbulence significantly increased the sampling rates of the pesticides in the FTS and SBE compared to the QBE (p < 0.001). The calibration data generated can be used to derive pesticide concentrations in water from POCIS deployed in stagnant and turbulent environmental systems without correction for NOM. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Parr T.B.,University of Maine, United States | Parr T.B.,31 South College Avenue | Cronan C.S.,University of Maine, United States | Danielson T.J.,7 State House Station | And 2 more authors.
Ecological Indicators | Year: 2016

Reliable and inexpensive indicators of ecosystem function are essential for accurately monitoring and describing ecosystem integrity. Currently, most state and federal assessments of aquatic ecological integrity rely on structural indicators and assume tight coupling of structure and function. We used fluorescent composition of dissolved organic matter as a metric for certain ecosystem functions and compared the resulting index of autochthonous microbial dissolved organic matter (DOM) to macroinvertebrate indicators and classifications of water quality attainment reported by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (Maine DEP) at 142 stream sites. We observed that metrics of sensitive insect orders such as relative Plecoptera generic richness, relative Ephemeroptera abundance, and generic richness of EPT (Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera) were negatively correlated with higher values of metrics based on autochthonous microbial DOM sources. At the same time we observed an increase in the Hilsenhoff Biotic Index with increasing microbial DOM. We compared the abundance of this microbial DOM component to Maine DEP measured attainment classes and found that microbial DOM generally separated sites with high biological integrity from sites where the biotic community was highly degraded. This highlights that measures of biogeochemical ecosystem function complement measures of structure in biological assessments. © 2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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