USGS - Science for a Changing World

Water-Resources Investigations Report 03-4256

Associations Among Land Use, Habitat Characteristics, and Invertebrate Community Structure in Nine Streams on the Island of Oahu, Hawaii, 1999–2001


By Anne M.D. Brasher, Reuben H. Wolff, and Corene D. Luton


The island of Oahu is one of 51 study units established as part of the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water-Quality Assessment (NAWQA) program to assess the status and trends of the Nation’s surface and ground-water resources, and to link status and trends with an understanding of the natural and human factors that affect water quality. As part of the NAWQA program, benthic invertebrate communities were surveyed at ten sites in nine streams representing the three main types of land use on Oahu: urban, agriculture, and forested. At each sampling site, habitat characteristics were determined at a range of spatial scales including drainage basin, segment, reach, transect, and point. Associations among land use, habitat characteristics, and benthic invertebrate community structure were examined. The rapid population growth and increasing urbanization on Oahu has resulted in substantial stream habitat alteration. Instream habitat characteristics at the urban and mixed (urban and agriculture) land-use sites were markedly different from those at the forested sites. Urban and mixed land-use sites, most of which were channelized, tended to have less riparian vegetation, higher water temperatures, smaller substrate, and higher levels of embeddedness and siltation than sites in forested watersheds. The majority of invertebrate taxa identified during this study were non-native. Invertebrate abundance was lower at urban and mixed land-use sites than at forested sites, while species richness (the number of different species) showed the opposite pattern. Multivariate analyses indicated that invertebrate species composition was similar at sites with similar land use. Aquatic insects of the orders Diptera and Trichoptera were the most common insects in all samples. The ratio of Diptera to Trichoptera abundance varied with urbanization. Forested sites were dominated by Trichoptera, and urban and mixed land-use sites were dominated by Diptera. Molluscs typically occurred in channelized urban streams although no native molluscs were collected during this study. The most abundant molluscs were pan-tropical thiarid snails, the introduced clam Corbicula fluminea, and the limpet Ferrissia sharpi. Two native and four introduced species of Crustacea were collected at the sampling sites. To effectively manage Hawaiian watersheds for native species and the communities they form, the ways in which these species respond to human-induced changes needs to be understood. This report provides important information describing the usefulness of invertebrates as indicators of stream quality conditions and how an integrated assessment of stream quality will allow for the development of appropriate monitoring and management strategies.


This report is contained in the following file:

WRI034256.pdf (11.6 mb)

Send questions or comments about this report to Anne Brasher ( 801.908.5027.

For more information about USGS activities in Hawaii, visit the Hawaii District home page.

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