Posts Tagged ‘Monitoring’
River and creek sampling
Thanks to 137 volunteers who contributed a total of 548 volunteer hours, the 2013 Fall River Roundup was a great success! Our volunteers split into 25 teams and traveled to 50 different creek and river locations across the Huron River Watershed to assess the aquatic benthic macroinvertebrate community.
This study is one of the most effective ways that HRWC has to keep its finger on the pulse of the stream. From the data collected from this semi-annual event, we get a better understanding of which creeks and rivers are getting better, which are getting worse, and how we can direct our management activities.
You can see all the results in Fall 2013 River Roundup Report.
Current Watershed Health
In a nutshell, the health of the watershed as judged by our macroinvertebrate sampling is holding steady. Of the 62 sites that we monitor to judge this, 30 sites have had no statistically significant changes over time, and 6 sites are too new to make this judgment.
12 sites are declining, and these include locations on Chilson Creek, Davis Creek, east branch of Fleming Creek, Norton Creek, and South Ore Creek. The majority of the declining sites are in Livingston County. Eight of the declining sites are in Livingston, two are in Washtenaw, and three are in Oakland.
14 sites are significantly improving. 11 of improving sites are in Washtenaw County, including Boyden Creek, Horseshoe Creek, the main and west branches of Fleming Creek, Huron Creek, the Huron River in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and several places on Mill Creek. 2 sites are improving in Livingston County (Horseshoe Creek at Merrill Road and Mann Creek at Van Amberg Road), and 1 site is improving in Wayne County (Woods Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark).
1. For many years HRWC has held up Millers Creek in Ann Arbor as an example of what can happen to an urban creek- the stream flow is flashy, the channel is incised, the riparian vegetation is shrubby invasive plants, and there is little life in the creek. In 2009 HRWC finished up a green infrastructure project in the headwaters of Millers designed to reduce the amount of stormwater rushing into the creek, and at the same time the City of Ann Arbor finished a major streambank stabilization project where the creek crossed Glazier Way.
The efforts spent restoring Millers Creek seems to be paying off. The sample taken in Millers Creek at Glazier Way contained the most insect families ever seen since sampling began in 1993. While the overall trend since 1993 is unchanged, from 2004 when the creek was at its worst (3 insect families), until now in 2013 (12 insect families), there is a statistically significant increase. Insects that are particularly susceptible to pollution and disturbance have yet to be found here however, and we will continue monitoring in hopes that these insects will make their way back to the stream.
2. Starting in this past January, HRWC has been sending volunteers to two new stream sites on Portage Creek near Stockbridge. This is a long drive from Ann Arbor and we appreciate the volunteers who have made this journey. This Roundup, volunteers in the Portage Creek at Rockwell site found a treasure trove of insect diversity. Twenty insect families were found which puts this new site up there with the very best places we go. We will look forward to visiting this site again in the future!
Norton creekshed in Oakland County is a Detroit suburb and industrial hub. Historically, the creek has suffered from numerous impairments and has seen little improvement as the area has become increasingly suburbanized.
In terms of the macroinvertebrate community, samples taken here have always had terrible diversity and low abundance, but in recent years things have gotten worse. When sampling started in Norton Creek at West Maple Road in 2000, it was normal to find between 8 and 10 insect families. However, volunteers during the past four fall River Roundups have found 3, 4, 4, and 3 insect families. Two of the insect families found are actually water striders, which are only semi-aquatic as they live on top of the rather than in the water.
These poor samples have made Norton Creek the worst location of all of those that HRWC monitors. For more information on Norton Creek, see our Norton Creek page and associated creekshed report. http://www.hrwc.org/norton
On January 26th, HRWC staff and volunteers will gather for the 19th annual Stonefly Search. This event is very similar to a River Roundup except that we are only looking for stoneflies. Some of these little guys can be found year round, but there are a couple of stonefly families that are only reliably found in the winter months, and they are great indicators of healthy water. We hope you and your family and friends will join us for this fun outdoor event! Register here! http://www.hrwc.org/volunteer/stonefly/
HRWC volunteers spend a lot of the summer collecting water quality information. THANK YOU! Of course, getting in the water is great fun and often a fun challenge. But what of all the data that we collect? What does it tell us? Where does it go?
2013 Field Results
Join HRWC staff as we present the results of the 2013 field work for Portage Creek, Bioreserve, Adopt-A-Stream, and Water Quality Monitoring. Program directors Kris Olsson, Paul Steen, Pam Labadie and Ric Lawson will give presentations on the most recent findings, followed by Q and A.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
6:30 – 8:00 PM
NEW Center Conference Rooms
1100 North Main Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48104
Please RSVP to Jason: JFrenzel@hrwc.org
Want to meet the Lions, Tigers, and Bears of the Huron?
We’re happy to show them off – but you’ll have to help us hunt them down! (Though ours are a tad smaller, as they are aquatic insects.)
Join us on Saturday, October 12 for HRWC’s autumn River Roundup. You can bring a small group of friends or we’ll put you on a team with other awesome HRWC volunteers. The outing takes about 4 hours and starts at either 9:00 or 10:30 am (you get to choose!). We’ll send you to some really cool spots around the watershed to track down some of those critters. When you return we’ll have a nice snack to share over your stories in the wild!
For info and to register, please check out www.hrwc.org/volunteer/roundup.
*Lampyridae, Tabanidae, and Belostomatidae are, respectively, fireflies, horse flies, and giant water bugs – OH MY!!
**Note: If you are looking for the October 9th edition of News to Us please click here. An incorrect link was circulated in our recent email.**
This edition of News to Us describes new projects dedicated to protecting the Huron River and other freshwater resources throughout the state. Read about the increasing popularity of the Huron as well as a recent bird sighting.
European frog-bit: the next invasive plant to watch – Fast moving aquatic invasive that colonizes marshes, ditches and swamps as well as shorelines of lakes and rivers discovered near Alpena.
Helping Michigan cities plan for a warmer future – A Michigan Radio interview with Beth Gibbons, project manager for the Great Lakes Adaptation Assessment for Cities (GLAA-C) on helping cities like Flint, Michigan plan for climate change adaptation.
Jackson officials accept court’s decision nullifying stormwater fee; services such as leaf pickup eliminated — The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled the city’s stormwater fee an unconstitutional tax that violates the Headlee Amendment. Jackson declines to appeal the decision.
Ann Arbor officials credit large increase in river trips to popularity of Argo Cascades – Liveries along the Huron reported record numbers of river trips this summer, including HRWC’s neighbors at the Argo Canoe Livery. The recently installed Cascades are said to be the reason. Get out on the river before the summer ends. Register here for HRWC’s last paddle trip, September 21.
Washtenaw County to back $3.33M in bonds for flood control in Ann Arbor — The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners recently approved support for five exciting projects within Ann Arbor and the Allen Creek watershed that will help to mitigate flooding and reduce E. coli and phosphorus levels in the Huron. Projects range from installing new stormwater control measures in drains to planting trees!
Sewer overflows declining, but heavy rains still push sewage into streams – Michigan’s sewer systems seem to be out of sight and out of mind — until they break. Recent reports find that current systems will take billions of dollars to upgrade and fix. Many cities and counties are trying to adapt these systems to a changing climate, with more intense rainfall that stresses stormwater plants. Fortunately, new legislation is funding grants to be used by cities throughout the state to alleviate the problem.
Bird battle stuns shutterbug — A great blue heron recently got a little too close to a mother osprey and her nest. Mama osprey went above and beyond the call of duty to teach heron a lesson.
As reported last September, HRWC is compiling all of our data on a creekshed scale, looking specifically at our creeks and the land that affects them. We are synthesizing all of our knowledge on these creeksheds and putting them into easily digestible and colorful 4 page reports.
There are now seven creekshed reports available, including the Woods Creek report, which was just finished.
Woods Creek, located near Belleville, is the healthiest lower Huron River tributary. There are several ordinances protecting the creek and there are many invested citizens who live in the watershed, including the Woods Creek Friends.
In this edition of our river news round up, read about river heroes from young to old, take a look back at your community through time using a new Google tool, learn what you need to know about ticks.
Muir Middle School Students Participate in Project GREEN, Clean Up Huron River Getting children out to the river is such a great way to build a connection to our environment. A group of middle school students spent a day in the Huron cleaning up trash and taking water quality measurements. Thanks to Mrs. Gustafson’s class at Muir Middle School in Milford for helping protect the Huron River!
A look back at modern-day John Dingell in Ann Arbor As a clean water advocate and good friend of HRWC, we want to say congratulations to John Dingell for becoming the longest serving member of Congress. He has been a strong advocate for the people of his district and has helped communities of the Huron River Watershed on many issues important to our quality of life.
Watch Michigan change over time using Google’s ‘Earth Engine’ Do you remember “how it used to be?” Take a look back in time with this cool new tool from Google that lets you look at your community and how it has changed over the recent decades. Notice anything interesting, fun or sad? Let us know in the comments.
There’s a tick boom in Michigan – Here are 5 things you should know As many of our field volunteers can tell you, it is a bumper year for ticks in this area. Don’t be alarmed. Just be aware. And use this resource and others to make sure that any ticks you may encounter did not leave behind more than an itchy bite and creepy feeling.
Preparation begins for $3.16M reconstruction of Madison Street in Old West Side A new road project is set to include features that reduce stormwater impacts to the neighborhood residents, city infrastructure and the river. Features like larger storm pipes and rain gardens can keep water out of our streets and basements. The gardens, in particular also help keep pollutants and detrimental flows from reaching the Huron. A large portion of this project is funded through Ann Arbor’s stormwater utility – a steady source of funds for proactive projects that help protect the river from stormwater impacts.
A team of volunteers and staff from HRWC and the Huron Clinton Metroparks found over 80 different species of wildflowers, trees, and grasses on just under a mile-long stretch through a 100-acre portion of Huron Meadows Metropark recently. The metropark, one of 10 that run along the Huron River for much of its length, is home to 1,000 acres of upland forest, wooded swamp, grassland, fens, and wet meadows, as well as the Huron River itself, which makes it a great destination for hikers in the summer and cross country skiers in the winter.
This summer, HRWC’s bioreserve project is leading field assessments on Metropark properties, as well as properties local land conservancies are working on protecting, in order to provide the Metroparks and conservancies with detailed ecological information to aid in their management and preservation efforts.
The field assessment for Huron Meadows will help Metroparks staff target invasive control efforts in the natural areas within the parks. For instance, the team found a large wetland complex on the west side of their survey area that flowed beyond the park to border Ore Lake. While high quality, the wetland would benefit from a glossy buckthorn control effort on its southern side, but was mostly free of invasives to the north. The team also discovered several vernal ponds pocketed in low lying areas within the oak-hickory forest hills that are most likely great habitat for frogs and salamanders.
A wet and wild spring
On April 20, teams of HRWC volunteers poured from our office and explored the Huron Watershed in search of aquatic insects, snails, clams, and crustaceans. The data that these volunteers collect enables HRWC to keep a finger on the pulse of the Huron River and it’s tributaries; to understand where streams are degrading and where they are getting better.
This year’s event was marked by very high water, just like our Spring Roundup in 2011. And just like in 2011, data interpretation has been difficult. The data collected from a River Roundup are meant to show overall conditions across the watershed and be comparable to past year’s data in order to tell us how things are changing over time. In flooded conditions, the stream systems are not comparable to past years, often because the volunteers are forced to sample in an unusual manner (like standing on the bank and reaching into the swollen river rather than entering it).
QAPPs are useful- yes, seriously!
HRWC follows a quality assurance project plan (QAPP) to make sure that we deal with the issue of bad samples in a consistent manner.
From the QAPP:
“The resulting measures of Total Insect Taxa for each site will be compared to the median from the site’s whole data record and there should be a relative percent difference of less than 40%. The same comparison will be made for Total Abundance (for all taxa).
Sample results that exceed these standards will be noted as “outliers” and examined to determine if the results are likely due to sampling error or a true environmental variation. If sampling error is determined or if the environmental variation is not reflective of normal conditions (ie extreme flooding), the data point shall be removed from the data record.”
13 samples were removed from the official data record for failing to meet these requirements. The rejected samples had on average total abundances 50% less than the median of past results, and coincidentally 50% less insect diversity than the median of past results. (We would expect these two numbers to be related but it is strange that they are exactly the same).
2 samples were at new sites where past data didn’t exist to test results against the QAPP
requirements, but volunteer descriptions make it plain that the sites could not be sampled properly. These samples were also rejected.
27 samples were accepted. For all accepted samples, total abundance was down 20%, and insect diversity was only down 14% from the median of past results. This amount of variation is normal even in unflooded conditions.
You can see all the results in the Spring 2013 River Roundup Report.
Current Watershed Health
In a nutshell, the health of the watershed as judged by our macroinvertebrate sampling is holding steady. Of the 59 sites that we monitor to judge this, 28 sites have had no statistically significant changes over time, and 6 sites are too new to make this judgment.
13 sites are declining, and these include locations on Chilson Creek, Davis Creek, east branch of Fleming Creek, the Huron River at Flat Rock, Norton Creek, and South Ore Creek. It should be pointed out, as it was after the 2012 Fall Roundup, that the majority (though not all) of the declining sites are in Livingston County.
12 sites are improving, including Boyden Creek, Horseshoe Creek, the main and west branches of Fleming Creek, Huron Creek, the Huron River in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti, and several places on Mill Creek. The majority (though not all) of the improving sites are in Washtenaw County.
The rejected samples aren’t thrown away. They are placed into a separate database and flagged with the reason for their exclusion. Such data may prove useful in the future- for example, quantifying the effect of high flows on macroinvertebrate populations… as a way at getting at how climate change could be changing our watershed.
Let’s hope for a drier fall- but if it is wet and flooded again- we know how to deal with it!
- A beautiful Huron River, where it crosses Zeeb Road. credit: John Lloyd
- Dave Wilson samples Woods Creek! credit: Nate Antieau
- Digging through the muck of Port Creek. credit: Mark Schaller
- A quick break for the camera! credit: John Lloyd
- "Do you see anything?" credit: John Lloyd
Bring on the “brrr!”
On January 26, 110 intrepid volunteers faced the harsh winter elements and spread across the Huron River watershed in search of stoneflies, which are only found in clean and healthy streams. Everyone made it back safe, which is the number one priority, and it seemed that a good time was had by all.
In 2012 the Stonefly Search volunteers had to deal with melting snow and flood conditions, but this year we had a deep freeze in the week preceeding the Search, and most of the teams had to break their way through the ice in order to sample the stream macroinvertebrates. Despite this challenging problem, stoneflies were found in great abundance at many locations. The results are in, and are given in this pdf report.
1. The status quo is being maintained for most of the sampling sites. Sites that have had stoneflies in the past are still able to support them, and sites that were not healthy enough to hold stoneflies still do not have them. That being said, we did see a few changes this year which are detailed below.
2. Four sites had the best stonefly samples that had ever been seen at those locations: Chilson Creek at Chilson Road, Fleming Creek at Galpin Road, the Huron River at Flat Rock, and Woodruff Creek at Buno Road. At each of these sites, the stoneflies normally found at the location were there, but also new stonefly families were found that had never been seen there before! A greater diversity of stoneflies indicates greater stream health. These are promising results and hopefully it will continue into longer term trends.
3. The team searching for stoneflies in Woods Creek in Belleville came back disappointed. Wood’s Creek at the Lower Huron Metropark has been sampled 12 times since 1997, and this is the first time that stoneflies could not be found. The problem likely comes from the thick ice and difficult conditions rather than pollution or disturbed stream habitat, but we will keep an eye on Wood’s Creek next year.
4. Traver Creek is a stream in north Ann Arbor that has typical urban stream problems- in particular, flashy flows and runoff, oil, and sediment from roads. In the past couple of years, part of the train track berm washed out and released a large plume of sediment to Traver Creek. However, we were pleased that both of the sites sampled on Traver Creek this year turned up stoneflies. The sites were both upstream and downstream of the wash-out.
Next on the horizon!
Interested in doing more with our macroinvertebrate searches? Think about becoming a trained leader or collector by coming to the next training on March 24. This is an extremely important job because every team needs both a trained leader and collector, and we often do not have enough to meet the demand. Sign up for the training!
2012 was a dry year for the watershed. No significant storms occurred after mid-April, and very little precipitation fell at all through the entire month of July. Flows in the river and tributary streams hit record lows in late July and early August. What effect did this dry spring and summer have on the water quality in the watershed? Results from HRWC’s Water Quality Monitoring Program help answer this question.
The program had a banner year in 2012 with the greatest number of volunteers (49) trained and deployed to the most sites (36) across three counties. HRWC added 14 new sites in 2012 alone as the program expanded into Wayne County. This diligent corps of dedicated volunteers collected nearly 500 sets of water quality samples for analysis at municipal labs administered by the cities of Ann Arbor and Brighton and the Ypsilanti Communities Utility Authority (YCUA).
The state of Michigan does not have a numerical standard for phosphorus levels, but 50 µg/l is used for area lakes as a level to stay below in order to avoid serious algae blooms and fish kills. Concentrations of total phosphorus (TP) in monitored streams were roughly the same, on average, as the past two years. Wayne County streams (which include some that drain directly to the Detroit River) had the highest mean concentration at 100 µg/l, while Washtenaw County streams averaged 80 µg/l, and Livingston County streams were much lower at 30 µg/l. The portion of the watershed in Livingston County retains more wetland area (wetlands filter phosphorus), and a smaller developed or urbanized area than in Washtenaw or Wayne County. Mean stream flow, or discharge, was much less in 2012 than in previous years resulting in an overall “load” of phosphorus (i.e., the total mass of phosphorus moving downstream over a given period of time) from these streams that was lower than in previous years. Also, sediments (measured as Total Suspended Sediments or TSS) were slightly lower on average this year. Fewer storms means less erosion, or soil runoff, which may have also helped to keep phosphorus levels down, since phosphorus readily attaches to soil particles.
Bacteria Still a Health Concern
Bacteria levels, as measured by Eschericia coli, continue to be high in several areas of the watershed during 2012. Levels regularly exceeded state standards for human health in most monitored tributary streams in Washtenaw and Wayne counties. Notable exceptions were Woods Creek, Fleming Creek, and the Huron River upstream of Ann Arbor. Efforts to identify specific sources of bacteria in Honey Creek in Scio Township were not particularly fruitful. Bacteria counts were high throughout the streams of Honey Creek, and genetic tracking showed that a wide variety of animals contributes to the problem (including humans).
Stormwater Runoff Problem Persists
While the lack of major storms this season may have reduced the overall amount of erosion and other runoff pollution, tributary streams continue to exhibit unnatural flows. Streams throughout Wayne County (with the exception of Woods Creek) and the urbanized areas of Washtenaw County exhibited much higher peak flows following storms than would be expected from the size of their watersheds, and the flows returned to low flow much more quickly. Notably, at the driest points in July and August, some smaller creeks stopped flowing altogether. Typically, unaltered perennial streams should continue to receive sufficient groundwater in-flow even through the drought experienced in 2012.
Some of these flow characteristics also led to dissolved oxygen levels that were below state standards set to protect aquatic life. The streams in question are ones that were severely channelized (straightened and deepened), and the low water levels isolated sections from in-flow of oxygen-rich water, causing them to stagnate for long periods. Bugs, fish and other aquatic life will return to these creeks as flow returns, but they will have a difficult time sustaining a healthy, diverse population over the long term with such periodic oxygen starvation. While a number of programs and projects to reduce stormwater runoff are encouraging, these results suggest there is still a long way to go.
The Water Quality Monitoring Program is funded by local government agencies through HRWC partnerships for stormwater and watershed management.