Thursday, September 22, 2016

Healthy Streams: Signatures of a Vibrant Community, by Don Orth

We depend on streams for sustenance and spiritual renewal.  Healthy streams are the signature of a vibrant community.  Vibrant communities are good neighbors who weigh consequences of actions.  It is a constant struggle to maintain or restore elements of the natural world amidst our growing human communities. 
Blacknose Dace Rhinichthys atratulus is the most common fish in upper urbanized Stroubles Creek.  (photo by DJ Orth)
“We all live downstream” is more than a slogan; it is pervasive fact that should guide our actions in the watershed.  Streams tell us about who lives upstream as well as how they live.  I developed a Pecha Kucha presentation (i.e., 20 images x 20 seconds) for a Blacksburg Sustainability Week event.  Many of the 20 slides reflect the reality of the modified streams that drain the urbanized watershed of Blacksburg, Virginia. 
Webb Branch, in a daylighted section, between Prices Fork Rd and Stanger Rd.
My purpose was to promote an ethic of responsibility for leaving our signature on the land and their receiving waters.  Stroubles Creek was once a meadow stream flowing through the frontier settlement of Drapers Meadow.  Flooding, once a natural phenomenon, became a nuisance as many buildings were constructed.  When spring-fed branches were buried, the flooding only intensified. The resulting legacy is the urban stream syndrome.   Currently, a segment of Stroubles Creek from the outlet of the Duck Pond to the confluence with Walls Branch is impaired, based on biological monitoring of benthic fauna.  Solving the local problems in our Stroubles Creek watershed will require innovative and even experimental approaches to stormwater capture and nutrient and sediment assimilation. Health of streams and humans are intimately linked; we should all care.  Aquatic communities are indicators of stream conditions. Environments in which people live, work and play are leading predictors of public health.   Vibrant communities value streams, and are continually renewing and replacing low value with high value.

Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) stalking fish in a stormwater pond on the
Virginia Tech campus.  Photo: Valerie F. Orth
References (Pecha Kucha has no room for references)
Blazer, V.S., L.R. Iwanowicz, H. Henderson, P.M. Mazik, J.A. Jenkins, D.A. Alvarez, and J.A. Young. 2012. Reproductive endocrine disruption in smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu) in the Potomac River basin: spatial and temporal comparisons of biological effects. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 184:4309–4334.
Lee Pow, C.S.D., J.M. Law, T.J. Kwak, W.G. Cope, J.A. Rice, S.W. Kullman, and D.D. Aday.   2016. Endocrine active contaminants in aquatic systems and intersex in common sportfishes.  Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry.    DOI: 10.1002/etc.3607      
Kauffman, G.J.  2016.  Economic value of nature and ecosystems in the Delaware River basin. Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education 158::98-119.

McDonald, R.I., K.F. Weber, J. Padowski, T. Boucher,  and D. Shemie.  2016 . Estimating watershed degradation over the last century and its impact on water-treatment costs for the world’s large cities. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113:9117-9122.

Parece, T., S. DiBetitto, T. Sprague, and T. Younos.  2010.  The Stroubles Creek watershed: History of development and chronicles of research.  Virginia Water Resources Research Center Special Report No. SR 48-2010.  Blacksburg, Virginia.  
Stroubles Creek IP Steering Committee. 2006.  Upper Stroubles Creek watershed TMDL implementation plan, Montgomery County, Virginia.  VT-BSE Document No. 2005-0013.  

Walsh, C.J., A.H. Roy, J.W. Feminella,  P.D. Cottingham, P.M. Groffman, and R.P. Morgan, II.  2005.  The urban stream syndrome: current knowledge and the search for a cure.  Journal of the North American Benthological Society 24:706-723. 

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