Stream Biological Health in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed
To learn more about this project and find interactive maps, check out the webpage for “Chessie BIBI” Index for Streams .
This report offers a numeric value for the 2008 Baseline referenced in the 2014 Chesapeake Agreement’s stream health goal as well as evidence of a net improving trend in stream health in the Chesapeake watershed. The report demonstrates a process for tracking progress in achieving the stream health goal to “improve health and function of ten percent of stream miles above the 2008 baseline.” The bioregion, family-level version of the Chesapeake Basin-wide Index of Biotic Integrity, or “Chessie BIBI,” is used to quantify stream health. The index is calculated from macroinvertebrate data collected by state, federal, county, and volunteer monitoring programs with kick net methods and was developed specifically for 1st – 4th order streams in the Chesapeake watershed (Smith et al. 2017). The 2008 Baseline is the 2006 – 2011 period because it encompasses all sampling schedules of the watershed’s state monitoring programs, most of which employ rotational sampling.
Gaps in the monitoring data’s spatial and temporal coverage make it difficult to directly estimate percentages of healthy streams in the pre-baseline (2000 – 2005), baseline, and subsequent “first interval” (2012 – 2017) periods. Statistical analyses indicate approximately 61.7% (~89,317 miles) of non-tidal stream miles likely supported healthy macroinvertebrate communities in the baseline period. The percentage increased to 67.8% (~98,049 miles) in the first interval. Despite this roughly 6% net improvement, some areas of the watershed show degrading trends. The net improving trend, however, suggests the collective impact of multiple environmental stressors on streams may be slowly lessening in many parts of the Chesapeake watershed. Identifying which factors are responsible for the net improvement would be speculative at this point, although long-term efforts to conserve forests, preserve and restore riparian corridors and wetlands, mitigate acid rain and mine drainage, slow stormwater runoff, and reduce nutrients and sediment loads have all likely contributed. Metrics for a variety of environmental stressors are currently being explored and will help future investigations of stream macroinvertebrate responses to those stressors. They can help explain why the current trend is happening.
The purpose of this report is to present the monitoring-based results and provide CBP with a process for tracking progress in achieving the Chesapeake watershed’s stream health goal. The process differs in some respects from those of the state agencies who use the data differently and for state regulatory purposes. We fully expect the Chessie BIBI results will also differ from state results at times, even though the underlying raw data are the same. The Chessie BIBI can be used for inter-jurisdictional, watershed-based planning and evaluation.