Survey of benthic macroinvertebrates in vicinity of Christmas tree farms in Alleghany County, NC

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Title: Survey of benthic macroinvertebrates in vicinity of Christmas tree farms in Alleghany County, NC
Author: Greene, Whitney
Abstract: Abstract Greene, Whitney. Master of Environmental Assessment. Survey of Benthic Macroinvertebrates in Vicinity of Christmas Tree Farms in Alleghany County, NC Water pollution caused by urbanization, agriculture, and industries has significant impacts on waterbodies and aquatic ecology. Pollution affects the biodiversity of the aquatic community and can change the species composition from natural species to tolerant species. Benthic macroinvertebrates have been used as bio-assessment indicators to determine water quality for decades. A well-balanced and functional biological community is one of the best indicators of a healthy stream, which provides fundamental ecosystem services. Benthic macroinvertebrates are used in studies to help determine water quality because of their pollution tolerances, limited movement, and high numbers. Chemical tests on water can fail to detect brief contamination events, but even small levels of environmental degradation can affect macroinvertebrates. Macroinvertebrate sampling data is not capable of differentiating between the possible sources of pollution, but the resulting data can determine if there is an impact on the aquatic ecosystem. This study focused on conducting water quality assessments on nine streams in Alleghany County, NC. Alleghany County is located in Western, NC where the climate and altitude are ideal for growing Christmas trees. Alleghany has two main rivers that run through the county, the New River in the north and west and the Little River in the center and northeast. Nine streams that are located on or near the vicinity of a Christmas tree farm were sampled and were assessed using benthic macroinvertebrates as biological indicators. Biological assessments were performed using the NCDENR Benthic Standard Operating Procedure on all nine streams (NCDENR 2006). Meadow Fork had been sampled in 1998 and classified as excellent according to the Ephemeroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera Index (EPT Index), and was used as the reference stream in this study. This bioassessment was used as a follow up to the macroinvertebrate survey completed by DEHNR in 1998 and NCCE 1999. It was concluded from this study that eight out of the nine sampling sites had improved in macroinvertebrate counts or remained the same. With regard to Piney Fork, whose water quality rating decreased, streams sampled near the vicinity of Christmas tree farms displayed no adverse affects.
Date: 2015-04

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