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Scientific Investigations Report 2013–5046

National Water-Quality Assessment Program

Multi-Regional Synthesis of Temporal Trends in Biotic Assemblages in Streams and Rivers of the Continental United States

By Matthew P. Miller, Anne M.D. Brasher, and Jonathan G. Kennen

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (3.2 MB)Abstract

Biotic assemblages in aquatic ecosystems are excellent integrators and indicators of changing environmental conditions within a watershed. Therefore, temporal changes in abiotic environmental variables often can be inferred from temporal changes in biotic assemblages. Algae, macroinvertebrate, and fish assemblage data were collected from 91 sampling sites in 4¬†geographic regions (northeastern/north-central, southeastern, south-central, and western), collectively encompassing the continental United States, from 1993 to 2009 as part of the U.S.¬†Geological Survey National Water-Quality Assessment Program. This report uses a multivariate approach to synthesize temporal trends in biotic assemblages and correlations with relevant abiotic parameters as a function of biotic assemblage, geographic region, and land use. Of the three groups of biota, algal assemblages had temporal trends at the greatest percentage of sites. Of the regions, a greater percentage of sites in the northeastern/north-central and western regions had temporal trends in biotic assemblages. In terms of land use, a greater percentage of watersheds draining agricultural, urban, and undeveloped areas had significant temporal changes in biota, as compared to watersheds with mixed use. Correlations between biotic assemblages and abiotic variables indicate that, in general, macroinvertebrate assemblages correlated with water quality and fish assemblages correlated with physical habitat. Taken together, results indicate that there are regional differences in how individual biotic assemblages (algae, macroinvertebrates, and fish) respond to different abiotic drivers of change.

First posted March 29, 2013

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Suggested citation:

Miller, M.P., Brasher, A.M.D., and Kennen, J.G., 2013, Multi-regional synthesis of temporal trends in biotic assemblages in streams and rivers of the continental United States: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2013–5046, 20 p., available only online at





Approach and Methods

Multi-Regional Comparisons of Biotic Trends and Drivers of Trends

Study Limitations and Future Directions

Summary and Conclusions


References Cited

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