Biological Integrity in Urban Streams: Toward Resolving Multiple Dimensions of Urbanization

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Landscape and Urban Planning


Most studies of urban streams have relied on single variables to characterize the degree of urbanization, which may not reflect interactions among features of urban landscapes adequately. We report on an approach to the characterization of urbanization effects on streams that used principal components analysis and multiple regression to explore the combined, interactive effects of land use/land cover, human population demography, and stream habitat quality on an index of biological integrity (IBI) of fish communities. Applied to a substantially urbanized region in northeast OH, USA, the analysis demonstrated the interactive nature of urbanization effects. Urban land use and stream habitat quality were significant predictors of IBI, but were no better than and, in some cases, poorer predictors than other gradients and interactions among gradients. High integrity sites were characterized by low forest cover and high grassland cover at sub-catchment scale, but high forest cover within a 500 m radius local zone of the sample point, conditions often found in protected parklands in the region. The analysis also indicated that variability in stream habitat quality was unrelated to landscape or demographic features, a result we attribute to the interaction between the geological and urbanization histories of the region. © 2005 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.