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Johnson J.M.,Vistronix | Buchanan C.,Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

In 2006, a phytoplankton index of biotic integrity (PIBI) was published for Chesapeake Bay Lacouture et al. (Estuaries 29(4):598-616, 2006). The PIBI was developed from data collected during the first 18 years (1985-2002) of the Chesapeake Bay Program long-term phytoplankton and water quality monitoring programs. Combinations of up to nine phytoplankton metrics were selected to characterize bay habitat health according to plankton community condition in spring and summer seasons across four salinity zones. The independent data available at the time for index validation was not sufficient to test the PIBI because they lacked critical index parameters (pheophytin and dissolved organic carbon) and reference samples for some seasons and salinity zones. An additional 8 years of monitoring data (2003-2010) are now available to validate the original index, reassess index performance and re-examine long-term trends in PIBI conditions in the Bay. The PIBI remains sensitive to changes in nutrient and light conditions. Evaluation of the PIBI results over the entire 1985-2010 time period shows no discernible trends in the overall health of Bay habitat based on phytoplankton community conditions. This lack of overall PIBI trend appears to be a combined response to declines in water clarity and improvements in dissolved inorganic nitrogen and dissolved phosphorus conditions in the bay. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media. Source

Devereux O.H.,Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin | Prestegaard K.L.,University of Maryland University College | Needelman B.A.,University of Maryland University College | Gellis A.C.,Md Of Dc Water Science Center
Hydrological Processes

Fine sediment sources were characterized by chemical composition in an urban watershed, the Northeast Branch Anacostia River, which drains to the Chesapeake Bay. Concentrations of 63 elements and two radionuclides were measured in possible land-based sediment sources and suspended sediment collected from the water column at the watershed outlet during storm events. These tracer concentrations were used to determine the relative quantity of suspended sediment contributed by each source. Although this is an urbanized watershed, there was not a distinct urban signature that can be evaluated except for the contributions from road surfaces. We identified the sources of fine sediment by both physiographic province (Piedmont and Coastal Plain) and source locale (streambanks, upland and street residue) by using different sets of elemental tracers. The Piedmont contributed the majority of the fine sediment for seven of the eight measured storms. The streambanks contributed the greatest quantity of fine sediment when evaluated by source locale. Street residue contributed 13% of the total suspended sediment on average and was the source most concentrated in anthropogenically enriched elements. Combining results from the source locale and physiographic province analyses, most fine sediment in the Northeast Branch watershed is derived from streambanks that contain sediment eroded from the Piedmont physiographic province of the watershed. Sediment fingerprinting analyses are most useful when longer term evaluations of sediment erosion and storage are also available from streambankerosion measurements, sediment budget and other methods. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Source

Moltz H.L.N.,Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin | Lopes V.L.,Texas State University | Rast W.,Texas State University | Ventura S.J.,University of Wisconsin - Madison
Journal of Hydrologic Engineering

The Santa Fe River Watershed in Santa Fe County, New Mexico was identified as one of the top five high risk nonpoint source pollution areas out in the Rio Grande Basin. This watershed was selected to demonstrate the use of hydrologic modeling as a powerful tool for assessing the impacts of land management practices on erosion and sediment control at the watershed level. A method based on the Hydrologic Simulation Program-Fortran was used to address the local nonpoint sediment pollution concerns. The model was modified to reflect predicted future land uses related to expected urban expansion in the watershed. Six scenarios were created and the costs and benefits of each were weighed. The total estimated costs ranged from under $1 million to over $66 million. Total average annual sediment yields at the watershed outlet ranged from 3,441 to 4,111 tonnes/year, depending on management practices employed. These results indicate the magnitude of expected sediment reductions under various management strategies. Additionally, they provide an indication of the magnitude of expected sediment reductions in the Santa Fe Watershed and the estimated cost of each management practice. © 2010 ASCE. Source

Schultz C.L.,Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin | Ahmed S.N.,Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin | Mandel R.,Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin | Moltz H.L.N.,Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin
Journal of the American Water Resources Association

We have enhanced the ability of a widely used watershed model, Hydrologic Simulation Program - FORTRAN (HSPF), to predict low flows by reconfiguring the algorithm that simulates groundwater discharge. During dry weather periods, flow in most streams consists primarily of base flow, that is, groundwater discharged from underlying aquifers. In this study, HSPF's groundwater storage-discharge relationship is changed from a linear to a more general nonlinear relationship which takes the form of a power law. The nonlinear algorithm is capable of simulating streamflow recession curves that have been found in some studies to better match observed dry weather hydrographs. The altered version of HSPF is implemented in the Chesapeake Bay Program's Phase 5 Model, an HSPF-based model that simulates nutrient and sediment loads to the Chesapeake Bay, and is tested in the upper Potomac River basin, a 29,950 km2 drainage area that is part of the Bay watershed. The nonlinear relationship improved median Nash-Sutcliffe efficiencies for log daily flows at the model's 45 calibration points. Mean absolute percent error on low-flow days dropped in five major Potomac River tributaries by up to 12 percentage points, and in the Potomac River itself by four percentage points, where low-flow days were defined as days when observed flows were in the lowest 5th percentile range. Percent bias on low-flow days improved by eight percentage points in the Potomac River, from -11 to -3%. © 2013 American Water Resources Association. Source

Buchanan C.,Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin | Moltz H.L.N.,Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin | Haywood H.C.,Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin | Palmer J.B.,Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin | Griggs A.N.,Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin
Freshwater Biology

The Ecological Limits of Hydrologic Alteration (ELOHA) method described in Poff et al. (2010) was applied to streams and small rivers in a large central region of the Potomac River basin in the U.S.A. The area, which is topographically complex, has karst geology, is increasingly urban and has few flow-altering impoundments, allows a test of the flexibility and applicability of the ELOHA method's four steps: build a hydrological foundation, calculate flow alteration, classify streams and develop flow alteration-ecology (FA-E) relationships. A hydrological foundation of baseline (undisturbed) and current (existing) hydrographs was simulated for 747 catchments using the Chesapeake Bay Program Hydrologic Simulation Program-FORTRAN (HSPF) model and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Online Object Oriented Meta-Model (WOOOMM) routing module. The outlet of each catchment was associated with one, and sometimes two or more, stream macroinvertebrate sampling sites. Pairing each catchment's simulated current flow with its own simulated baseline flow produced estimates of flow alteration that reflect the combination of natural and anthropogenic factors controlling streamflow in individual catchments. Flow metrics from the baseline and current simulations were compared with observed values from gauged streams in undisturbed and disturbed catchments. The model may have failed to simulate streamflow well in small urbanised catchments on or near karst geology, but observed data were insufficient to fully evaluate model behaviour in these units. Elsewhere, simulated and observed values of 13 of the 15 tested flow metrics generally agreed well. A stream hydrological classification system to account for natural biological variability was not feasible in the study area for two reasons. First, the natural landscape features that most strongly govern undisturbed streamflows (catchment size and karst geology) do not greatly influence undisturbed macroinvertebrate communities. Second, the study area's complex topography ensures that many streams crossed physiographic boundaries or flowed through karst geology before reaching the macroinvertebrate sampling sites. Stream macroinvertebrates responded strongly to alteration in the duration and frequency of both high and low flow events, rise rate, flashiness and magnitude of high flow events. They did not respond to the alteration in middle- and low-magnitude flow metrics, fall rate or extreme low flow frequency. Flow alteration-ecological relationships were developed for combinations of six flow metrics and seven macroinvertebrate metrics using quantile regression and conditional probability methods. Of the seven macroinvertebrate metrics, % scrapers, % clingers and the Chessie BIBI were most affected by flow alteration. Degraded habitat and water quality conditions modify and, if strong enough, conceal the flow alteration-ecological relationships. Water quality and habitat improvements can potentially ameliorate the impacts of flow alteration. Resource managers need to view each stream system holistically and consider all anthropogenic stressors before the impact of existing or future flow alteration can be determined. Overall, the ELOHA approach appears to have worked well in a large river basin with complex topography, karst geology, few flow-altering dams, many urban areas and macroinvertebrates as the ecological response variables. © 2013 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Source

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