Performance of National Maps of Watershed Integrity at Watershed Scales
International Scientific Information, Inc. -- Water
DOI 10.3390/w10050604
  1. watershed and catchment integrity
  2. sustainable watershed management
  3. anthropogenic stressors
  4. aquatic connectivity
  5. StreamCat
  6. water quality
  7. nitrogen
  8. wetlands
  9. lakes
  10. streams

Watershed integrity, the capacity of a watershed to support and maintain ecological processes essential to the sustainability of services provided to society, can be influenced by a range of landscape and in-stream factors. Ecological response data from four intensively monitored case study watersheds exhibiting a range of environmental conditions and landscape characteristics across the United States were used to evaluate the performance of a national level Index of Watershed Integrity (IWI) at regional and local watershed scales. Using Pearson’s correlation coefficient (r), and Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient (rs), response variables displayed highly significant relationships and were significantly correlated with IWI and ICI (Index of Catchment Integrity) values at all watersheds. Nitrogen concentration and flux-related watershed response metrics exhibited significantly strong negative correlations across case study watersheds, with absolute correlations (|r|) ranging from 0.48 to 0.97 for IWI values, and 0.31 to 0.96 for ICI values. Nitrogen-stable isotope ratios measured in chironomids and periphyton from streams and benthic organic matter from lake sediments also demonstrated strong negative correlations with IWI values, with |r| ranging from 0.47 to 0.92, and 0.35 to 0.89 for correlations with ICI values. This evaluation of the performance of national watershed and catchment integrity metrics and their strong relationship with site level responses provides weight-of-evidence support for their use in state, local and regionally focused applications.