Stream response to human impact in the southern Blue Ridge Mountains
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This study addresses the effects of forest conversion on streams of the southern Blue Ridge. The primary objective was to determine which stream morphological, sedimentological, and water quality parameters respond to modest levels of disturbance in small highland streams. Basin forest cover was used as a proxy for human impact. Two pairs of lightly- and moderately-impacted sub-basins of the upper Little Tennessee River were identified for comparison. Reach characteristics (e.g. slope and riparian cover) were aligned within the pairs. A thorough suite of sedimentological and morphological parameters was measured along a 40X reach of each stream. Water quality data were collected twice monthly between September 2003, and February 2004. The moderately-impacted streams showed finer bed texture, lower dissolved oxygen, and higher suspended and dissolved solids, nitrate, turbidity, temperature, and specific conductivity than the lightly-impacted streams. The moderately impacted streams were narrower and demonstrated lower width/depth ratios than their lightly-impacted counterparts.