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General Information Product 143

National Water-Quality Assessment Program

Stream Ecosystems Change With Urban Development

By Amanda H. Bell, James F. Coles, and Gerard McMahon

Thumbnail image of GIP 143 and link to PDF


The healthy condition of the physical living space in a natural stream—defined by unaltered hydrology (streamflow), high diversity of habitat features, and natural water chemistry—supports diverse biological communities with aquatic species that are sensitive to disturbances.

In a highly degraded urban stream, the poor condition of the physical living space—streambank and tree root damage from altered hydrology, low diversity of habitat, and inputs of chemical contaminants—contributes to biological communities with low diversity and high tolerance to disturbance.

First posted November 14, 2012

For additional information contact:
Chief, National Water-Quality Assessment Program
U.S. Geological Survey
413 National Center
12201 Sunrise Valley Drive
Reston, VA 20192

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Suggested citation:

Bell, A.H., Coles, J.F., and McMahon, Gerard, 2012, Stream ecosystems change with urban development: U.S. Geological Survey General Information Product 143, 1 p., available at

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