Effects of Urbanization on Stream Ecosystems

U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 042-02
May 2002

The pdf for this report is 704KB

The National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) Program of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is investigating the effects of urbanization on stream ecosystems in 15 metropolitan areas. Assessments began in 1999 in the metropolitan areas of Anchorage, Alaska; Birmingham, Alabama; Boston, Massachusetts; Chicago, Illinois; Cincinnati-Dayton, Ohio; Los Angeles, California; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Trenton, New Jersey; and Salt Lake City, Utah. Additional studies began in 2001 in Atlanta, Georgia; Reno-Sparks, Nevada; Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas; Denver, Colorado; Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Portland-Salem-Eugene, Oregon. In all of these studies, urbanization is defined as the conversion from rural land uses to residential and commercial uses that are typical of recent, generally sprawling, urban-growth patterns.

Specific questions addressed by all studies

Preliminary findings

Data from the 1999 studies are being compiled and interpreted; findings will be reported in journals and USGS reports in 2003. Preliminary analysis indicates that:

USGS biologists collecting fish for tissue analysis and community status assessment.
Photo of USGS biologists collecting fish for tissue analysis and community status assessment.

How this information can be used

These studies will better define the interrelationships among water quality, stream hydrology and habitat, and ecosystems. In addition, the studies will lead to improved and comparable techniques for biological monitoring, and to the development of key indicators of the effects of urbanization on environmental quality. Information on the magnitude and pattern of degradation of stream ecosystems will help urban planners and other stakeholders prioritize streams for restoration. Understanding the effects of habitat disturbance, in addition to chemical contamination, within a given setting will help clarify the most appropriate strategy for managing, protecting, and restoring urban streams.

Locations of 15 metropolitan areas where NAWQA is studying the effectsof urbanization on stream ecosystems

Map showing locations of 15 metropolitan areas where NAWQA is studying the effects of urbanization on stream ecosystems.

Metropolitan Area Contact name, phone, and email

Anchorage, AK Steve Frenzel (907) 786-7107
Atlanta, GA Brian Hughes (770) 903-9162
Birmingham, AL Brian Atkins (334) 213-2332
Boston, MA Keith Robinson (603) 226-7809
Reno-Sparks, NV Michael Rosen (775) 887-7683
Chicago, IL George Groschen (217) 344-0037
Dallas-Fort Worth, TX Bruce Moring (512) 927-3585
Cincinnati-Dayton, OH Gary Rowe (614) 430-7729
Denver, CO Cathy Tate (303) 236-4882
Los Angeles, CA Ken Belitz (858) 637-6850
Milwaukee, WI Charles Peters (608) 821-3810
Philadelphia, PA/Trenton, NJ Jeff Fischer (609) 771-3953
Portland-Salem-Eugene, OR Denny Wentz (503) 251-3296
Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC Douglas Harned (919) 571-4024
Salt Lake City, UT Kidd Waddell (801) 908-5065

By Carol Couch and Pixie Hamilton

Contact for additional information:

Carol Couch
National Ecological Synthesis Project
U.S. Geological Survey
413 National Center
12201 Sunrise Valley Dr.
Reston, Virginia
(703) 648-5074 (phone)
(703) 648-6693 (fax)

Internet access to supporting NAWQA technical and program information:

U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Persistent URL:
Page Contact Information: Contact USGS
Last modified: Tuesday, February 18 2014, 12:50:49 PM
FirstGov button  Take Pride in America button