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TO: Dr. Erik Nordman, NRM Capstone Professor
FROM: Dane Gorris
DATE: April 16, 2015
SUBJECT: Final Resource Management Plan Alterations and Corrections
Adaptive Resource Management (ARM) strategies to problem solving in natural
resources is a very iterative process and can require many revisions along the way. I have
revised my objectives statement and data analysis per your recommendations and will
highlight what I have done to each particular segment in the following memo.
The overarching principles of my objectives, to develop a monitoring program, increase
macroinvertebrate biodiversity, and increase riparian zones quality in degraded areas has
mostly remained the same, however, now I am focusing the riparian zone aspect of the
project on the river system as a whole and have included three tributary study sites rather
than just the two originally intended mainstem collection areas. This will allow me to
assess more accurately the individual tributary watershed inputs into the Rogue River
from various points geographically and provide more encompassing results in the end. I
have developed goals that can be measured accurately and after identifying areas of key
concern I can confidently prescribe future management actions. I have further narrowed
down my objectives to provide more direction and clarity for the intended purposes of my
project. Macroinvertebrate biodiversity objectives will be considered achieved if they
either increase by three families not previously observed or increase in EPT
(Ephemeroptera, Trichoptera, Plecoptera) percentage by 5% over three years; riparian
zone degradation will be considered achieved if pre-management biotic index scores
increase by at least 5% over the same time period.
Originally I planned on analyzing my data solely by macroinvertebrate taxa presence,
lack thereof, functional feeding groups (FFG's), and overall population. After more
thought I chose to integrate a land-use composition facet into my study that I prepared
using ESRI ArcGIS software. This allows me to be able to compare macroinvertebrate
data to data regarding agricultural and forest/wetland land uses and covers across the
Rogue River watershed. Furthermore, I was able to prepare a biochemical oxygen
demand (BOD) test on samples I collected from my five study sites to allow me to assess
the energy cycling and dynamics within each site or tributary watershed. I also used this
data compared with my land use data to extrapolate the effects of land use on the
biochemical properties of each study site.
Improving Water Quality Within the Rogue River, Kent County, Michigan: A
Study Using Macroinvertebrates as Bioindicators of Water Quality
Created by: Dane Gorris, in partial fulfillment of NRM 495 Capstone, Dr. Erik Nordman,
Grand Valley State University, Winter 2015
The Rogue River system has many threats to its ecological health, largely due to
agricultural and residential developments of nearby Grand Rapids metropolitan area. Due
to the Rogue's close proximity to the expanding populace, this study sought to examine
the particular effects that nearby industrialization and agricultural efforts play on the
watershed as a whole. Of five sample sites studied one particular tributary, Nash Creek,
was impaired both physically and biologically while the other four were relatively less
disturbed. Agricultural land use played a large role in the measures of physical water
quality in all except for one tributary, Barkley Creek, and macroinvertebrate data
collected from all five sites compliments trends found in both physical, biological, and
riparian quality found at each location. Efforts to establish more numerous and more
effective buffer zones and agricultural best management practices are crucial in
sustaining the future health of the Rogue River.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan Department of
Environmental Quality, Trout Unlimited, fishermen and kayakers, homeowners along the
Rogue River, and other environmental interest groups all have an interest in protecting
water quality in the Rogue. The Rogue is an important resource both biologically and
economically, providing revenue from the many fisherman and tourists who visit the area
to recreate. The Rogue received a grant under the Home Rivers Initiative around 2010 to
restore habitat and assess thermal impacts of the Rockford Dam on the Rogue River. This
project intends to add to the empirical evidence already documented on the Rogue River
to allow these and other future stakeholder accurate information is assessing management
of the Rogue River. Particularly, this study aims to give stakeholders knowledge on the
current water quality of the Rogue River physically, chemically, and biologically so that:
degraded areas may be located and assessed properly, riparian buffer zones are
implemented to protect the Rogue River watershed, macroinvertebrate and other stream
communities remain stable and diverse, and physical water quality measures remain
stable and consistent with empirical evidence of ecologically healthy streams.
Implementation of a monitoring protocol for watershed quality is paramount in
the undertaking of this study. To develop this monitoring protocol rapid bioassessments
of macroinvertebrates and other indices will be used to rank the stream and its immediate
riparian areas on numerical scales that can identify healthy or otherwise
polluted/problematic areas. Cummins and Klug note the importance of riparian zone and
insect health, saying that, "The intimate relationship between the stream and its riparian
zone forms the basis for a significant (often the dominant) portion of annual energy
input" (1979, p. 147). Walters and Post (2011) note that streams and rivers are among the
most intensely modified ecosystems in the world due to extensive hydrologic alteration,
habitat alteration and chemical and organic pollution. (qtd. in Allan and Flecker 1993 and
Rosenburg et al. 2000). To quantify the latter criteria and achieve improved water quality
identifying, measuring, and prescribing mitigation techniques for these highly impacted
areas will be essential.
There are three main objectives that this study seeks to achieve in successfully
improving the water quality within the Rogue River watershed. They include the
following: 1) Assess and maintain integral physical and chemical capabilities of the
stream by ensuring adequate levels of dissolved oxygen (DO), pH, and BOD levels
within three years of management implementation. Individual multimetric, abiotic scores
quantify each site numerically or hierarchically, ranging from poor to excellent.
Managing each site to maintain at least 'fair' physical and chemical water quality index
scores will serve as this objectives success criteria; 2) Increase macroinvertebrate
biodiversity and improve population dynamics in impacted areas within the Rogue River
in at least three years. Increases in pre-management family numbers by three or more,
decreases in taxa dominance of 5% or more, and/or increases in EPT (Ephemeroptera,
Trichoptera, Plecoptera) percentage of 5% or more will serve as this objectives success
criteria; 3) Identify riparian areas of threatened biological integrity, measured by multiple
biotic indices, and increase those areas by at least 5% of their pre-management index
scores within three years of implementation.
Site Description and History
The Rogue River drains over 200 square miles of hardwood forest and
agricultural land in five counties in west central Michigan. Rockford, Michigan, which
will serve as the primary area of study in this project, is located in northern Kent County
in township 09N, and in between ranges 10 and 11W. About 9 miles south of Rockford
the Rogue terminates in the Grand River, Michigan's longest river. The terminus of the
Rogue is very near the growing Grand Rapids metropolitan area and thus the Rogue is
host to a number of environmental concerns as the area becomes more developed.
Agricultural runoff, riparian zone removal/fragmentation, damming of the mainstem,
human waste/disease introduction, and increasing developmental encroachment threaten
the ecological health and future ability of the Rogue to provide cold, clean water for not
only the river's communities but for the human communities that rely on it as well.
The Rogue River watershed is predominantly composed of agricultural land
though there are large parcels of hardwood forests and fallowed fields intermittently
dispersed throughout. Five sites in particular will serve as collection sites for this project:
The Upper Rogue Mainstem collection site was located at the corner of 12 Mile Rd. NE
and Friske Dr. NE, upstream of the mouth of the entrance of Cedar Creek. Cedar Creek
was a tributary study site about five miles upstream of the Rockford Dam in Rockford,
MI. The Lower Rogue Mainstem collection site was located at the West River Dr. NE
bridge about five miles downstream of Rockford near the Blythefield Golf Course.
Barkley Creek, another tributary to the Rogue, was sampled west of Wolverine Blvd. to
the southeast of Rockford, MI. Nash Creek, the final and third study site tributary to the
Rogue was sampled in Sparta, MI in William Rodgers Vil Park. Bothe Nash and Cedar
Creek have high agricultural land uses, however Barkley Creek is mostly residential and
forested along most of its reaches.
Systems Flow Diagram
Figure 1. Systems flow diagram showing the flow of water through the Rogue River watershed and various
inputs and outputs of the system that can affect the quality of the water. Kent County, Michigan, USA.
Experimental Design and Analysis
To physically assess the stream a number of physical factors were measured, such
as temperature, conductivity, pH, DO, and BOD. Physical habitat was assessed based on
Barbour and Stribling 1991, featured in “Macroinvertebrates as Biotic Indicators of
Environmental Quality” (Resh et al. 1996). Three transects taken directly adjacent to
each riffle, run, and pool sample and were averaged. Canopy cover and riparian
vegetation cover was visually assessed and ranked per the Barbour and Stribling (1991)
parameters as well. After data collection, riparian area prescriptions for revegetation may
be recommended based on the Rapid Riparian Revegetation (R3) approach (Guillozet et
al. 2014). Certain biotic indices such as an EPT index were used to represent proportions
of pollution-intolerant species that are key indicators of clean water (Sinitean and
Petrovici 2012). Chessman and McEvoy (1997) note that due to the varying degrees of
disturbance and sensitivity a suite of biotic indices must be used in the process of
Macroinvertebrates were sampled at each location with a D-Net in a random
manner, although precautions were made to ensure that riffle, run, pool, and riparian
vegetation sampling was possible at each study site. An average of 200 insects was
needed for a sufficient sample size at each site. Analysis included taxonomic
identification down to order and family, and grouping by functional feeding group as well
as sensitivity to pollution. Functional feeding group (FFG) analysis, taxa dominance
analysis, pollution sensitivity analysis, and population dynamics of each sample were
evaluated after returning from the field.
Land use analysis was evaluated using ESRI ArcGIS software so land use files
could be overlaid on a delineated tributary watershed map. Each individual tributary
watershed was analyzed by percent agricultural and forest/wetland composition,
measured by total acreage in each. Comparison of this data with physical, chemical, and
biological data is crucial in analyzing the river for all facets of its ecological integrity.
After analyzing the data collected from the Upper and Lower Rogue River, and
three tributary watersheds, Cedar, Nash, and Barkley Creeks, a number of patterns
became apparent. Overall, the Upper Rogue River had better stream habitat quality than
the Lower Rogue River, measured 29 and 17 respectively; Barkley Creek had the highest
stream quality of the tributary watersheds, 33, followed by Cedar Creek, 27, and finally
Nash Creek, measuring 17 as well. Stream habitat quality and riparian areas were
assessed using a multimetric habitat and abiotic index (maximum index score = 35),
supplemented with a measure of physical water quality, dissolved oxygen. Bank
vegetation and the presence of logs and jams in each study site were one of the main
contributors to each sites low score. Dissolved oxygen was mostly constant across each
stream with only slight fluctuations; substrate measures, riffle dominance and the
percentage of cobbles and boulders, remained mostly constant as well. Figure 2
summarizes the stream quality measures for the five study sites sampled during this
Macroinvertebrates were collected from each study site in order to show the
effects that stream habitat and water quality have on local macroinvertebrate populations.
FFG analysis showed a total of six different FFG's with a number of different FFG
regimes based on the particular watershed sampled. The Upper Rogue River was
comprised mostly of shredders, n = 58, and scrapers, n = 79, utilizing energy produced
by algal primary producers and riparian leaf fall from upstream reaches and tributaries;
the Lower Rogue also contained a high number of scrapers but also a dominant collector-
filterer group, indicative of higher-order, lower-reach watersheds where much of the
energy has been broken into fine-particulate organic matter (FPOM). Cedar Creek and
Barkely Creek both had dominant taxa in the scraper and shredder FFG's, however, Cedar
Creek's, n = 56, collector-gatherer taxa were much more dominant than in Barkley Creek,
n = 37. Nash Creek was the only watershed sampled that did not have six FFG's present;
five FFG's were present in Nash Creek with collector-filterers being the most dominant, n
= 92. Most of these filter-collectors were part of the Simuliidae family and are indicative
of organic pollutants upstream. There were no engulfer-predators, generally of the order
Odonata, present in Nash Creek. Nash Creek also had a notable population of scrapers
present, however, shredders were largely uncommon. Piercer-predators numbers
remained mostly constant across each watershed, n = 5 to 12 individuals per each
watershed. Figure 3 summarizes the functional feeding group analyses based on each
Figure 2. An assessment of stream habitat quality used to quantitatively rank each study site based on
seven separate habitat and abiotic parameters.
Figure 3. A summary of Rogue River watershed macroinvertebrates organized by six different
Nash Creek was the most
environmentally impacted stream both physically in-stream and in riparian vegetation.
Figure 4 highlights the compositions of land use within the Rogue River watershed and is
complemented by Figure 5, which highlights DO and BOD levels for the three tributaries
sampled. Nash Creek, which has over 40% cropland composition also exhibited the
highest BOD and lowest DO level of all five study sites, and in particular tributaries.
Nash Creek also had a very low amount of forest and wetland land uses suggesting that
the higher amounts of forest and wetland in Cedar and Barkley creek offset the negative
effects of agricultural pollution introductions. Cedar Creek also had relatively high levels
of BOD and lower DO, however, it has a nearly equal amount of forest and agricultural
land, 28% and 32%, respectively. Barkley Creek exhibited the highest physical and
chemical water quality and was composed of 15% agriculture and 28% forest land cover
in the watershed.
Management Recommendations and Future Monitoring Procedures
Nash Creek exhibited significantly lower physical, chemical, and biological water
quality measures then all four other sites sampled. Large tracts of concentrated
agricultural operations and relatively little amounts of forested land limit the streams
ability to provide consistently clean, nutrient- and waste-free waters. Figure 2 shows how
Nash Creek ranks consistently lower than the other four sites abiotically while Figure 3
exemplifies the large proportion of collector-filterers present in the stream. Whiles and
Dodds (2012) note that an abundance of Trichoptera Hydropsychid taxa, also collector-
Figure 4. Land use compositions of three study locations
within the Rogue River Watershed. Figure 5. Biochemical oxygen demand for three study tributaries
within the Rogue River watershed. Data shows a strong correlation
with high agriculture and low forest composition watersheds.
filterers, indicated a high level of organic pollution in streams in Kansas.
These findings have important implications, as there are a number of remedies to
reducing and alleviating agricultural operation and pollution stressors on not only Nash
Creek but the Rogue River as well. The following recommendations have been proven in
maintaining watershed health and integrity across a wide variety of aquatic landscapes
and geographic regions. A study focusing on phosphorus retention of riparian zones
found that retention in both grassed and heavily vegetated buffer zones along waterways
retained between 23% and 97% of total phosphorus introduction into a stream.
Furthermore, the same study found that total phosphorus retention was directly
proportionate to the width of the buffer zone, be it grassed or heavily vegetated with
various tree and shrub species (Uusi-Kamppa et al. 2000). Since reforestation of the Nash
Creek watershed is largely unfeasible in both the short-term biologically, and long-term
economically, constructing more buffer zones in unvegetated areas, and larger buffer
zones in existing areas is crucial. Agricultural yield productions would be minimally
impacted while the watersheds ecological health is still being maintained.
Another option in achieving the management objectives mentioned in the
beginning of this study include the widespread and uniform use of agricultural best
management practices (BMP's) throughout the Rogue River watershed. Agricultural best
management practices are designed to reduce the amount of water runoff and nutrient
outputs from agricultural operations into waterways and groundwater. Reducing tillage,
rotation-cropping, planting tight-row crops, utilizing cover crops in the offseason, and
contoured-row farming where crops are planted parallel to topographic contour lines
rather than perpendicular all reduce the amount of runoff and ultimately the amount of
pollution in our waterways. A study in the Lake Erie watershed found that implementing
BMP's in 25% of cropland areas in six separate study watersheds would reduce sediment,
phosphorus, and nitrogen transport rates by an average of 10%; when scientists increased
their modeled BMP's land percentage to 100% of the cropland in each six watersheds
flow reductions fluctuated between 11% and 43% (Bosch et al. 2012).
Both implementation of widespread agricultural BMP's and increasing buffer
zones along the Rogue River watershed could easily help achieve the management goals
outlined in this study. Increasing macroinvertebrate populations by three families, 5%
reductions of dominance taxa or EPT percentage increases, and 5% increases in riparian
biotic indexes will serve as a prominent first step in protecting the Rogue River's water
for future generations. Annual monitoring that occurs twice a year, for three years, in
both summer and winter, is necessary to obtain sufficient data that encompasses the
Rogue River's water quality and in-stream biological populations both seasonally and
temporally. The biological and abiotic indices outlined in this study serve as important
tools to gain leverage in understanding the ecology of the Rogue River watershed and its
surrounding land uses. Once one or a number of the management objectives are obtained
within the three year timeframe of management implementation, or obtained
consecutively for at least two monitoring sequences, improved water quality objectives
will be deemed as successfully achieved.
The Rogue River is a unique and rich environmental resource that many people
throughout western Michigan can access and enjoy at a relatively low expense. With such
a close proximity to the growing Grand Rapids metropolitan area the Rogue faces many
threats that, if not properly addressed now and in the future, could compromise the ability
of the watershed to provide cold and clean water to its communities and the human
communities that exploit it. Much of the Rogue River and its tributaries are in relatively
good condition both biochemically and physically, however, some watersheds that play
into the whole system, such as Nash Creek, have obvious environmental consequences to
their land uses. Agricultural operations provide necessary societal and economical
benefit, especially as local agriculture economies grow, but in order to maintain the
current status quo and develop in the future we must plan ecologically and sensibly.
Agricultural BMP's and effective riparian buffer zones are just a start at maintaining the
sensitive macroinvertebrate populations that are crucial to both studying the health of our
streams and in the overall energy dynamics of a stream system. These management
strategies also increase the terrestrial effectiveness of the lands composing our
watersheds in filtering and mitigating the direct effects of agricultural and residential or
Bosch, N. et al. 2012.Scenario-testing of agricultural best management practices in Lake
Erie Watersheds. Journal of Great Lakes Research. 39(3): 429-436.
Chessman, B. and P. McEvoy. 1997. Towards diagnostic biotic indices for river
macroinvertebrates. Hydrobiologia. 364: 169-182.
Cummins, K. and M. Klug. 1979. Feeding ecology of stream invertebrates. Annu. Rev. of
Ecol. Sys.10: 147-172.
Guillozet et al. 2014. The Rapid Riparian Revegetation Approach. Ecol. Restor. 32(2):
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Stream Ecology. San Diego: Academic Press, 1996. 674.
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the urban centres on the quality of the water in rivers. A.A.C.L. Intern. Jour. of the
Bioflux Society. 5(2): 60-63.
Uusi-Kamppa, J. et al. 2000. Buffer zones and constructed wetlands as filters for
agricultural phosphorus. Jour. of Environ. Qual. 29(1): 151-158.
Walters, A. and D. Post. 2011. How low can you go? Impacts of a low-flow disturbance
on aquatic insect communities. Ecol. Apps. 21(1):163-174.
Whiles, MR. and WK. Dodds. 2012. Relationships between stream size, suspended
particles, and filter-feeding macroinvertebrates in a great plains drainage network. Jour.
of Environ. Qual. 31(5):1589-1600.