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San Diego, CA, United States

Voss K.A.,Duke University | Pohlman A.,RBF Consulting | Viswanathan S.,University of San Diego | Gibson D.,San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board | Purohit J.,EcoLayers Inc.
Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

Environmental agencies across the United States have searched for adequate methods to assess anthropogenic impacts on the environment. Biological assessments, which compare the taxonomic composition of an aquatic assemblage to relevant biocriteria, have surfaced as an effective method to assess the ecological integrity of US waterbodies. In this study, bioassessment data were collected and analyzed in conjunction with physical habitat and chemical stressor data for streams and rivers within the San Diego basin from 1998 through 2005. Physical stressors such as sediment loading, riparian destruction, and in-stream habitat homogenization affect many locations in the region. However, physical habitat measures alone were found to frequently overestimate the biological integrity of streams in the region. Many sites within the San Diego Basin, although unaffected by physical stressors, continue to exhibit low biological integrity scores. Sites with low biological integrity tend to possess higher specific conductance and salinity compared to sites with high biological integrity. We suggest that one possible reason for these differences is the source water used for municipal purposes. © 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. Source

Fetscher A.E.,Southern California Coastal Water Research Project | Howard M.D.A.,Southern California Coastal Water Research Project | Stancheva R.,California State University, San Marcos | Kudela R.M.,University of California at Santa Cruz | And 4 more authors.
Harmful Algae

Lentic water bodies and large rivers have long been recognized as being susceptible, under certain conditions, to toxin-producing ("toxigenic") planktonic cyanobacterial blooms. Although benthic cyanobacteria commonly inhabit wadeable (i.e., shallow) streams, little has been published on the potential for cyanotoxin (e.g., microcystin) production in this water body type. Recent research in Monterey Bay, California, USA has linked inland-derived microcystins to numerous sea otter mortalities in the marine environment, a finding that illustrates the negative effects cyanotoxins can have on ecosystem services, even far downstream from their origin, due to fluvial transport. For the present study, surveys of >1200 wadeable stream segments were conducted throughout California during the spring and summer of 2007 through 2013, and revealed a high occurrence of potentially toxigenic benthic cyanobacteria. In addition, benthic microcystins were detected in one-third of sites, where tested (N=368), based primarily on one-time sampling, from 2011 to 2013 (mean concentration was 46μg/m2 of stream-bottom). Sites where microcystins were detected spanned a variety of surrounding land-use types, from open space (i.e., undeveloped land) to heavily urbanized/agricultural. Lyngbyatoxin (n=14), saxitoxins (n=99), and anatoxin-a (n=33) were also measured, at subsets of sites, and were also detected, albeit at lower rates than microcystins. Results of this study provide strong evidence that wadeable streams could be significant sources of cyanotoxin inputs to receiving waters, a finding that has implications for the management of drinking water, wildlife, and recreational resources, within both the streams themselves and in downstream rivers, lentic water bodies, and the ocean. © 2015 Elsevier B.V. Source

McLaughlin K.,Southern California Coastal Water Research Project | Sutula M.,Southern California Coastal Water Research Project | Busse L.,San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board | Anderson S.,California State University, Channel Islands | And 4 more authors.
Estuaries and Coasts

The magnitude and extent of eutrophication was assessed at 27 segments in 23 estuaries in the Southern California Bight (SCB) between October 2008 and 2009. We applied thresholds from the existing assessment frameworks from both the European Union and the U.S. National Eutrophication Assessment to measurements of three indicators [macroalgae biomass and cover, phytoplankton biomass, and dissolved oxygen (DO) concentration] to categorize eutrophic condition in each estuary. Based on these frameworks, a large fraction of segments had moderate or worse eutrophic condition-78 % based on macroalgae, 39 % for phytoplankton, and 63 % for DO. Macroalgal biomass exceeding 70 g dw m-2 and 25 % cover was found at 52 % of sites during any sampling event and in 33 % of segments for 8 weeks or longer, a duration found to negatively impact benthic infauna. Duration of hypoxic events (DO < 4 mg L-1) was typically short, with most events less than one day; although 53 % of segments had at least one event longer than 24 h. Assessment frameworks of eutrophic condition are likely to evolve over time as the body of literature on eutrophication grows, including aspects such as the applicability of indicators in specific habitat types, indicator thresholds, and how event frequency and duration are incorporated. This paper informs this debate by discussing how eutrophic conditions in SCB estuaries are categorized using different indicators and thresholds. To this end, categorization of estuarine eutrophic condition was found to be very sensitive to the type of threshold, how data are integrated to represent duration or spatial extent, and how indicators are used as multiple lines of evidence. © 2013 Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation. Source

Viswanathan S.,University of San Diego | Voss K.A.,Duke University | Pohlman A.,RBF Consulting | Gibson D.,San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board | Purohit J.,EcoLayers Inc.
Journal of Environmental Engineering

In this study, bioassessment data collected between 1998 and 2005 were synthesized and analyzed for streams and rivers throughout the San Diego Hydrologic Region to provide a spatial and temporal context for the results of several monitoring projects conducted between 1998 and 2005 and to ascertain the applicability of the Southern California benthic macroinvertebrate index of biological integrity (SoCal B-IBI) to the region's streams. The water quality of the sites studied in the region, as reflected by temporal and spatial analyses of SoCal B-IBI scores, was found to be quite poor. When streams were analyzed individually most showed stable scores over the time frame of the study with some showing better scores in the fall. Spatially, scores were found to be better farther away from the coast in the upstream reaches of the watersheds. This study further explored the applicability of the SoCal B-IBI to a focused geographic region by demonstrating the necessity of each component metric to the assignment of biological condition. Although all component metric scores were deemed to be necessary, the percent intolerant individuals score had a more significant effect in driving impairment. The analysis of the component metrics of the SoCal B-IBI provides useful insights to the changes in scores among and between the sampled sites in the region's watersheds. Based on this study, natural resource management agencies responsible for managing water quality should incorporate regular measures of biological integrity into their water quality programs to ascertain regional and temporal trends. © 2010 ASCE. Source

Fetscher A.E.,Southern California Coastal Water Research Project | Stancheva R.,California State University, San Marcos | Kociolek J.P.,University of Colorado at Boulder | Sheath R.G.,California State University, San Marcos | And 4 more authors.
Journal of Applied Phycology

Stream algal indices of biotic integrity (IBIs) are generally based entirely or largely on diatoms, because non-diatom ("soft") algae can be difficult to quantify and taxonomically challenging, thus calling into question their practicality and cost-effectiveness for use as bioindicators. Little has been published rigorously evaluating the strengths of diatom vs. soft algae-based indices, or how they compare to indices combining these assemblages. Using a set of ranked evaluation criteria, we compare indices of biotic integrity (IBIs) (developed for southern California streams) that incorporate different combinations of algal assemblages. We split a large dataset into independent "calibration" and "validation" subsets, then used the calibration subset to screen candidate metrics with respect to degree of responsiveness to anthropogenic stress, metric score distributions, and signal-to-noise ratio. The highest-performing metrics were combined into a total of 25 IBIs comprising either single-assemblage metrics (based on either diatoms or soft algae, including cyanobacteria) or combinations of metrics representing the two assemblages (for "hybrid IBIs"). Performance of all IBIs was assessed based on: responsiveness to anthropogenic stress (in terms of surrounding land uses and a composite water-chemistry gradient) using the validation data, and evaluated based on signal-to-noise ratio, metric redundancy, and degree of indifference to natural gradients. Hybrid IBIs performed best overall based on our evaluation. Single-assemblage IBIs ranked lower than hybrids vis-à-vis the abovementioned performance attributes, but may be considered appropriate for routine monitoring applications. Trade-offs inherent in the use of the different algal assemblages, and types of IBI, should be taken into consideration when designing an algae-based stream bioassessment program. © 2013 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht. Source

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