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Biological Indicator Development and Assessment of Condition for Prairie Streams in Eastern Montana

Robert G. Bramblett 1, Thomas R. Johnson 2, Ted R. Angradi 2, Karl A. Hermann 2,
Sarah A. Spaulding 3, Peter C. Ismert 2, and Anthony R. Selle 2

1 Montana Cooperative Fishery Research Unit, Montana State University, Bozeman, MT
2 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region 8, Denver, CO
3 U.S. Geological Survey, Biological Resources Division, Denver, CO

Sampling for a Regional Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (REMAP) study of the northern plains of eastern Montana was undertaken during the late summers of 1999, 2000, and 2001. The main objectives were to develop biological indicators and determine the condition of prairie streams in the Northwestern Glaciated Plains and Northwestern Great Plains ecoregions. Chemical, biological (fish, macroinvertebrates, and periphyton), and physical habitat parameters were sampled at a total of 67 stream reaches. Forty-four sites were selected using a probability design. An additional 23 sites were selected either randomly or by using best professional judgment to ensure that the full range of human influence on streams was captured. We avoided stream reaches immediately downstream of mountainous areas as they may have contained coldwater aquatic species unrepresentative of prairie streams. Indices of biological integrity (IBIs) were successfully developed for both fish and macroinvertebrates. Following the development of IBIs, an assessment of stream condition within the northern plains of Montana was completed. This assessment used IBIs, chemical and physical habitat data to determine the percentage of stream length in good, fair and poor condition. Additional work was done comparing landscape metrics with data collected at each stream reach.

Keywords: biological indicators, prairie streams, IBIs, water quality, assessment, landscape metrics

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