Effects of Urbanization on Stream Ecosystems

Effects of Urbanization on the Geomorphology, Habitat, Hydrology, and Fish Index of Biotic Integrity of Streams in the Chicago Area, Illinois and Wisconsin

Faith A. Fitzpatrick, Matthew W. Diebel, Mitchell A. Harris, Terri L. Arnold, Michelle A. Lutz, and Kevin D. Richards

doi: https://doi.org/10.47886/9781888569735.ch7

Abstract.—Effects of urbanization on geomorphic, habitat, and hydrologic characteristics and fish biotic integrity of 45 streams in the Chicago area were examined by the U.S. Geological Survey from 2000 to 2001. An agricultural to urban land-cover gradient approach was used. Landscape characteristics such as texture of surficial deposits, slope, riparian land cover, and stream network position also were examined to determine if these factors influenced the effects of urbanization. Among geomorphic characteristics, channel enlargement occurred in urban streams with a high percent of watershed clayey surficial deposits. Other geomorphic and habitat characteristics such as stream power, fine substrate, and amount of riffles did not correlate with percent watershed urban land but instead correlated with reach slope. Bank erosion, habitat variability, and two habitat indexes did not correlate with watershed urban land. Below 30% watershed urban land, the unit area discharge for a 2-year flood increased with increasing urban land; however, above 30% urban land, unit area discharges for a 2-year flood were variable, most likely due to variations in stormwater management practices, point-source contributions, and the transport index. Streams with greater than 33% watershed urban land had low base flow, but the effects of urbanization on base flow were offset by point-source contributions. Fish index of biotic integrity (IBI) scores were low in streams with greater than 25% watershed urban land. Fish IBI scores also were low in streams with high percentages of watershed clayey surficial deposits and enlarged channels. The amount of riparian forest/ wetland buffer had no moderating effect on geomorphic/habitat/hydrologic characteristics and fish IBI scores. Variations in the texture and topography of glacial landforms affected reach slope and some habitat characteristics. Longitudinal profiles were useful for distinguishing differences in local geologic settings among sampled sites.