The Effect of Landscape on Streams

This topic submitted by Team Stream!! Jessica Miller, Genevieve Knight Denise Riffle (,, at 12:18 pm on 10/19/00. Additions were last made on Wednesday, May 7, 2014. Section: Myers

The Effect of Landscape on Streams

We intend to study what effect landscape has on a stream. To accomplish this, we will survey aquatic life such as minnows and water striders, factors affecting the stream such as light, temperature, and entering debris, and elements of the stream such as width, depth, and water speed. We hypothesize that landscape influences stream habitat. In other words, streams and what lives there are effected by the landscape around them. We will measure several different physical aspects of streams in different landscapes and determine if and which of these affect the abundance of animals in the stream. In an urban landscape we expect to see the most sun and trash, and the fewest leaves of all the landscapes we survey. We also expect a high water temperature and slow water speed in an urban landscape. In a deep-woods landscape we expect to see the least amount of sun and trash and the most leaves of the landscapes in our study. We also expect to see a low water temperature and high water speed. In an edge landscape we expect the sunlight and water temperature to be evenly between the other two landscapes. The amount of leaves and trash in the edge landscape and the water speed to be not much less than the amount in the deep-woods landscape. We expect animals to be most abundant in the deep-woods, least abundant in an urban landscape, and evenly between the two in the edge landscape.
We came to this topic due to our interest in streams and aquatic life. As a class, under the excellent guidance of Chris Myers, it was decided that landscape will be included as a factor in each lab. This led to our eventual question of how a stream would differ across landscapes. Through this lab we plan to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of aquatic landscapes along with enriching our lives through discovery science.

The topic of landscape is relevant in terms of the research done by the class as a whole, and for the benefit of future students and disciples of Chris Myers. As well as in how it relates to official stream studies such as those done by the EPA. If landscape is not considered when studying a stream, then it is possible that the results may be skewed.
Isaac Schlosser has found that land-use activities near a stream result in significant changes in the population of stream fishes. He has also found that normal variations in these populations correspond to the seasonal input of leaves and other organic materials. If this schedule of input is changed, it has a huge effect on the animals in the stream. Alvarez-Cobelas et al have also found that the nitrogen and phosphorous added to streams from the decomposition of leaves and other organic materials are a measure of the aquatic health of the stream. Todd Crowl found that species interactions vary with the environmental context across different stream habitats. In the same article, Alex Flecker remarked on the importance of the environmental context when studying biological interactions. He was referring to tropical streams, but we believe it is applicable to our study as well. Luz Boyero has found that factors such as rainfall and stream flow are important in terms of nutrient cycling and foodweb dynamics. His rainfall and stream flow are similar to the depth and water speed in our study. A more complete list of literature is provided at the end of this proposal.
We intend our study to expand Fleckerís ideas to temperate streams, and Scholsserís ideas to animals in addition to fishes, as well as tie together the somewhat disparate ideas in these studies.

We will visit areas of a stream and find sections in different landscapes (urban, edge, and deep-woods) ten meters long with similar width, depth, and water speed. In each of these sections we will count schools of fish, and water striders along the ten meters using a visual scan. With a hula-hoop we will mark off three areas within the ten-meter section of the stream looking for other notable organisms such as invertebrates and insects. Every two meters along the ten-meter stretch of stream we will measure the width and depth (at the middle) of the stream. We will set up traps with more hula-hoops in order to collect debris entering the stream. Other factors we will measure include light, using a spectral refractometer, and water temperature using a thermometer.
We chose these methods based on what we are capable of measuring with our limited resources. We found, in our research, that when studying streams, 150-meter stretches are usually surveyed. We did not think that with our time and resources we would be capable of surveying such a large area effectively. We chose not to study microorganisms or do water testing because they are beyond our capabilities. We also feel that minnows and water striders are good organisms to study because one lives in the water and the other on the water, giving us gauges for two different situations in a stream. This will help us distinguish between the actual stream and the habitat immediately surrounding it. We feel that our experiments are statistically sound because we asked for advice from our wonderful, omniscient teacher, Chris Myers. He is so great. (He has a neat tattoo.) We will ensure unbiased results through consistency in width, depth, and speed of the stream. We will ensure consistency in location by measuring and marking off ten meters and using the same size hoops.
The materials we plan to use include: a meter stick to measure the depth of the stream, a stopwatch and floating object (such as a cork) to measure the speed of the water, three hula hoops to mark off areas in which to observe other notable organisms. Additional hoops will also be used along with a screen, sticks, and a stapler to construct a trap to catch entering debris. We will use a spectral refractometer to measure the average light in the area, and a thermometer for measuring the water temperature. We will use a large measuring tape to mark off the ten-meter stretch of stream and to measure width of the stream. We will also use a field guide to identify organisms. A rope will also be used to mark off the selected length of stream. We will call upon Chris Myers as a source of motivation and inspiration, with his eternal passion for science and nature.
The class will be involved in our lab by helping us to collect data. We will divide the class into three groups and take them out to three different sites. Each group will be headed by a Team Stream member. We will teach the class to help us take measurements and count organisms. The presence and guidance of a Team Stream member throughout the process will assure consistency. In case of rain, we will get wet. In case of a storm that would make it dangerous to go outside, we will have a back-up presentation of pictures of what we do and find in the stream, and explain our lab and its importance to them. We will invite them to, if their free time co-incides with ours, to come take measurements with us outside of class on a more weather-conducive day.

Date: _______ Location: ______________

Width 1: _____ Depth 1: _____
Width 2: _____ Depth 2: _____
Width 3: _____ Depth 3: _____
Width 4: _____ Depth 4: _____
Width 5: _____ Depth 5: _____

Temperature: _____?C Water Speed: ______m/sec Light: _______

# Water Striders: _______

# of Schools of Fish: <10 _______
10-50 _______
50-100 _______
100-200 _______
>200 _______

Hoop 1 Hoop 2 Hoop 3

Organisms and # found Organisms and # found Organisms and # found
__________ ___ __________ ___ __________ ___
__________ ___ __________ ___ __________ ___
__________ ___ __________ ___ __________ ___
__________ ___ __________ ___ __________ ___
__________ ___ __________ ___ __________ ___

Hoop Trap

Objects and # found
__________ ___
__________ ___
__________ ___
Week One: Scout out sites and pick locations.
Week Two: Build and place hula hoop traps to begin capturing debris.
Week Three: Check sites and record data.
Week Four: Check sites and record data.
Week Five: Check sites and record data. Teach NS, in place of Chris Myers.
Week Six: Check sites and record data.
Week Seven: Check sites and record data. Begin analyzing data.
Week Eight: Clean up and analyze data. Work on final lab report.
Week Nine: Analyze data and finish lab report.

We plan on calculating an average width, depth, temperature, speed and light of each location. We are going to show the average amount of organisms found per type of landscape and compare them. We will make a collective list of the entering debris. We will draw conclusions based on what is caught in our debris traps, in terms of where the debris comes from and what effect it may have on stream life. Then we will look for correlations between abundances of organisms and elements of the stream such as temperature, light, speed, width, depth, et cetera. We will compare these elements and the abundance of organisms between landscapes. We will make a table with our numerical data and use bar graphs to visually demonstrate the comparisons between the separate landscapes.


Alverez-Cobelas et. al. "Hydrological and botanical man-made changes in the Spanish wetland of Las Tablas de Daimiel" Biological Conservation. Vol. 97. Issue 1. Page 89-98. January 2001.
Boyero et al. "Tropical Stream Ecology" Tree. Vol.15. Issue 10. Page 391. October 2000.
Greenwood and Metcalfe. "Minnows become nocturnal at low temperatures". Journal of Fish Biology. Vol. 53. Issue 1. Page 25-32. July 1998.
Mode et. al. "Ranked set sampling for ecological research: accounting for the total costs of sampling." Environmetrics. Vol. 10, Issue 2, page 179-194. March/April 1999.
Myers, Chris. "Science: Inspiration and Joy". Natural Systems. September 28, 2000.
Schlosser. "Stream fish ecology: A landscape perspective". Bioscience. 1991. Vol. 41. No. 10, page 704-712.
Severns, John. Student: Miami University and Employee: EPA. Email Interview. September 19, 2000.

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