Skip Links

USGS - science for a changing world

Scientific Investigations Report 2007-5225

Prepared in cooperation with Colorado Springs City Engineering

Urban-Related Environmental Variables and Their Relation with Patterns in Biological Community Structure in the Fountain Creek Basin, Colorado, 2003–2005

By Robert E. Zuellig, James F. Bruce, Erin E. Evans, and Robert W. Stogner

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (37.4 MB)Download Publication
Scientific Investigations Report
2007-5225 PDF (37.4 MB)

In 2003, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Colorado Springs City Engineering, began a study to evaluate the influence of urbanization on stream ecosystems. To accomplish this task, invertebrate, fish, stream discharge, habitat, water-chemistry, and land-use data were collected from 13 sites in the Fountain Creek basin from 2003 to 2005. The Hydrologic Index Tool was used to calculate hydrologic indices known to be related to urbanization. Response of stream hydrology to urbanization was evident among hydrologic variables that described stormflow. These indices included one measurement of high-flow magnitude, two measurements of high-flow frequency, and one measurement of stream flashiness. Habitat and selected nonstormflow water chemistry were characterized at each site. Land-use data were converted to estimates of impervious surface cover and used as the measure of urbanization annually. Correlation analysis (Spearman’s rho) was used to identify a suite of nonredundant streamflow, habitat, and water-chemistry variables that were strongly associated (rho > 0.6) with impervious surface cover but not strongly related to elevation (rho < 0.60).

An exploratory multivariate analysis (BIO-ENV, PRIMER ver 6.1, Plymouth, UK) was used to create subsets of eight urban-related environmental variables that described patterns in biological community structure. The strongest and most parsimonious subset of variables describing patterns in invertebrate community structure included high flood pulse count, lower bank capacity, and nutrients. Several other combinations of environmental variables resulted in competing subsets, but these subsets always included the three variables found in the most parsimonious list.

This study found that patterns in invertebrate community structure from 2003 to 2005 in the Fountain Creek basin were associated with a variety of environmental characteristics influenced by urbanization. These patterns were explained by a combination of hydrologic, habitat, and water-chemistry variables. Fish community structure showed weaker links between urban-related environmental variables and biological patterns. A conceptual model was developed that showed the influence of urban-related environmental variables and their relation to fish and invertebrate assemblages. This model should prove helpful in guiding future studies on the impacts of urbanization on aquatic systems. Long-term monitoring efforts may be needed in other drainages along the Front Range of Colorado to link urban-related variables to aquatic communities in transition zone streams.

Version 1.0

Posted January 2008

Suggested citation:

Zuellig, R.E., Bruce, J.F., Evans, E.E., and Stogner, R.W., 2008, Urban-related environmental variables and their relation with patterns in biological community structure in the Fountain Creek Basin, Colorado, 2003–2005: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2007–5225, 24 p.




Purpose and Scope

Description of the Study Area


Historical Background

Study Methods

Data Collection

Basin Characteristics and Interpretation of Land-Use Data

Stream-Reach Characteristics

Data Analysis

Stream Hydrology


Water Chemistry

Resolution of Taxonomic Ambiguities

Relating Urban Hydrology, Habitat, and Water Chemistry to Fish and Invertebrate Community Structure

Urban-Related Environmental Variables

Stream Hydrology


Water Chemistry

Relating Urban-Related Environmental Variables with Patterns in Biological Community Structure

Fish Communities

Invertebrate Communities

Major Findings


References Cited


Part or all of this report is presented in Portable Document Format (PDF); the latest version of Adobe Acrobat Reader or similar software is required to view it. Download the latest version of Acrobat Reader, free of charge or go to for free tools that allow visually impaired users to read PDF files.

Accessibility FOIA Privacy Policies and Notices

Take Pride in America logo logo U.S. Department of the Interior | U.S. Geological Survey
Page Contact Information: Contact USGS
Page Last Modified: Thursday, December 01 2016, 07:56:39 PM