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Aquatic Habitat & Terrestrial Ecology — Stream Assessment Data


The RVCA studies streams throughout the watershed. Using the MNR Stream Assessment Protocol, we examine how biology, geomorphology and land use influence fish communities.

Why study streams?
Streams are the ultimate integrator. The conditions at any point along the stream are influenced by upstream (and some from downstream) activities and conditions. Whether these influences originate at the watershed (macro), reach (meso), or site (micro) level, most of these processes are related to indicators which can be observed at the site level.

What do we look at?
When assessing a stream, we look at the following components:

  • Site Identification
  • Benthic Invertebrates
  • Fish Community
  • Channel Structure
  • Thermal Stability
  • Site Features

Locations are visited regularly and samples taken. Final reports are prepared outlining the discoveries found at that site.




Stream Assessment Reports
The reports generated from the different sites are technical. To understand more read about the components that make up the report.

1. Site Identification Summary
Basically, we collect data on where the site is located (township, lot, concession, etc.). More importantly, we describe the site so that future survey crews can find the site.

2. Thermal Stability
We collect and record information on water temperature, air temperature and the daily maximum air temperature. All of this data collected is entered into a database and the thermal stability rating is generated.

Benthic Invertebrates
Benthic invertebrates (bugs) are sampled from the bottom of the stream using a kick and sweep method. These aquatic insects are indicators of water quality conditions. The benthic invertebrates are identified and entered into the database. From here, the Hilsenhoff index is used. The Hilsenhoff Index analyses the species and number of bugs present and gives the site a score that identifies the potential degree of
organic pollution.

3. Fish Community Summary
Fish are sampled using a backpack electrofisher which momentarily stuns the fish so they can be netted and processed —“processed” means the fish is identified, measured, and weighed. This information is recorded and entered into the database to provide population summaries for the given site.

4. Channel Structure Summary
Channel Structure examines the stream bottom along the site location. It looks at habitat types (pools, glides, and riffles) and measures hydraulic head. Instream Cover is measured by measuring the form of substrate particles in the stream. Substrate particles include sand, gravel, rubble, boulder, woody debris and vegetation. We also examine riparian vegetation which looks at vegetation communities along both banks of the river in a given site. Bank Stability is also measured by collecting information on bank angle, bank composition, as well as bank vegetation.

5. Site Feature Summary
This section looks at influences which may impact the stream’s water quality. We look at things such as potential point or non point pollution sources, major nutrient sources upstream, channel hardening or straightening, adjacent land uses that destabilize banks, sediment loading and deprivation, instream habitat modification, barriers or dams in the vicinity of the site, high fishing pressure, log jam deflectors, springs or seeps, impervious substrate limiting burrowing depth of fish, other activities that could influence biota or habitat are all noted. This section's data is collected using visual immediate observations made on the site, visual extended, potential interviews with landowners or professionals, and maps or air photos of the area.