Huron River at White Lake Road!!!

The mighty Huron River... is pretty small up in Oakland County! (photo credit: Matt Lowney)

Seriously? Again?

For the 18th year in a row, the Huron River at White Lake Road had far-and-away the healthiest “bug” population as determined by HRWC’s semi-annual macroinvertebrate collection event. This location is in Indian Springs Metropark in Oakland County and is very near to the uppermost headwaters of the river. HRWC has highlighted this section of the river many times, but the site does deserve the attention. HRWC volunteers have found rare insects here numerous times and consistently find many insect families that only live in the most pristine of waters.

Let’s take a step back…

On April 21, one-hundred forty adventurous volunteers spread across the Huron River watershed to collect benthic macroinvertebrates: the  crustaceans, insects, and mollusks that live in our creeks and rivers.  Typically, only the healthiest streams will have abundant and diverse populations.  Polluted streams and other streams that are heavily impacted by human activities will hold fewer of these creatures, and may only contain the most pollution tolerant types.  By watching the long-term trends of these populations, HRWC can tell where pollution may be becoming a problem and that helps direct HRWC’s time and effort.

See the full set of results from this past River Roundup event.

Volunteers travel to forest and wetlands.... (Horseshoe Creek @ Merril Road, photo credit: John Lloyd)

Overall watershed assessment

In order to get an overall sense of the health of the Huron River Watershed, HRWC samples macroinvertebrates from sixty-four 300 foot sections of the creeks and rivers.  The sampling sites have been selected to provide equal geographic representation from the various areas throughout the watershed.

In regards to how the macroinvertebrate populations are changing at these sites:

  • 34 sites have remained largely unchanged since monitoring began on them
  • 9 sites have improved
  • 11 sites have declined
  • 10 sites are new to the program and cannot be judged until more data is collected.

In regards to their overall quality:

  • 3 sites are excellent (The best, most pristine areas)
  • 15 sites are good (Their macroinvertebrate populations are higher than we would expect based on the stream size, water temperature, and stream substrate).
  • 24 sites are fair (Their macroinvertebrate populations are slightly lower than we would expect based on the stream size, water temperature, and stream substrate)
  • 10 sites are poor (Pollution and other human impacts have severely damaged the macroinvertebrate populations at these sites)
  • 10 sites are new to the program and cannot be judged until more data is collected.

Other noteworthy results:

1)  South Ore Creek (Livingston County, flowing through and near Brighton) has never had great macroinvertebrate populations since HRWC began sampling here. This is a populated area of the Huron River watershed and is negatively affected by  a variety of human impacts, including dams and subdivisions. Our April results show that things may be getting worse:  the insect counts in 2 of the 3 sample sites on South Ore Creek are declining significantly, and the third site was already one of the worst places we monitor in Livingston County.

2) Boyden Creek (Washtenaw County, flowing through and around the Loch Alpine neighborhood) is showing the opposite trend. This is also a populated area of the Huron River watershed, and is also impacted by dams and subdivisions, but the data show that the macroinvertebrate populations have been getting significantly better over time. The similarities between Boyden Creek and South Ore Creek are interesting given that their macroinvertebrate populations are changing in opposite directions. This contrast is a bit confounding  and is something to study further.

3) Congratulations to all of our Wood Creek Friends!   Woods Creek at the Lower Huron River Metropark (Wayne County, near Belleville) had its best fall sample ever in 2011, and in this 2012 sample season it had its best spring sample ever. This sample was composed of fifteen insect families, including two families of stoneflies. The data now show significant improvement to the insect populations at this site.

.... and volunteers travel to village parks and urbanized rivers. (Huroc Park in Flat Rock, photo credit: Eric Bassey)

What next?

Are you interested in getting into the water this summer?We want you to join a team that will measure and map a stream site this summer! Learn to “read a river” by characterizing the bed, the banks and other indicators of stream health. Training for this program will be on August 5! See our volunteer page for more information!