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Canyonlands Natural History Association is a nonprofit organization established to assist the scientific and educational efforts of the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, and the USDA Forest Service in southeast Utah.

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Assessment of Biological and Physical Relationships of Spring and Seep Ecosystems Across a Gradient of Human Impacts

Rebecca Weissinger and Dustin Perkins, Northern Colorado Plateau Network Inventory and Monitoring Program

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Assessment of Biological and Physical Relationships of Spring and Seep Ecosystems Across a Gradient of Human Impacts The Northern Colorado Plateau Network (NCPN) has selected springs as a Vital Sign for monitoring and is currently investigating the use of aquatic macroinvertebrate species assemblages as an indicator of ecosystem health.

The relationship between anthropogenic disturbance and aquatic macroinvertebrate community species composition at springs on the Colorado Plateau is unclear. NCPN staff and cooperators visited 45 springs and hanging gardens in six national park units and on surrounding public lands. Forty springs were divided into impact categories based on visible disturbances at the site and measures of soil and riparian area integrity.

We were able to detect differences in vegetation, water temperature, turbidity, and E. coli presence at high impact sites versus low and moderate impact sites. Despite these differences, overall patterns indicate that aquatic macroinvertebrate assemblages and metrics do not differ between springs with different levels and types of anthropogenic impacts. Amphipod and non-insect richness were the only invertebrates that showed any differences, peaking at moderately disturbed sites and with lowest richness at highly disturbed sites.

Based on our dataset, we recommend that aquatic macroinvertebrate sampling not be included in long-term monitoring as a surrogate method for determining anthropogenic impacts at springs and seeps on the Northern Colorado Plateau.

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