Stream ecosystem response to urbanization in the Upper Oconee watershed, Georgia, USA
Sterling, Jessica Lynn
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Watershed urbanization has detrimental effects on stream ecosystems due to greater watershed impervious cover and associated stressors. During a two-year study, I investigated a wide range of biotic groups exhibiting different taxonomic and life history characteristics and ecosystem functional responses to explore urbanization effects on streams in the upper Oconee watershed, Georgia, USA. Reduced macroinvertebrate biomass was associated with greater watershed impervious cover and increased streamwater pollutant concentrations. I identified reduced overall nutrient storage in benthic biofilms, indicating lower nutrient retention as watershed impervious cover increased, and measured faster wood breakdown in urban streams, suggesting lower carbon storage. Overall, results from this thesis highlight the importance of carbon in urban streams. Management goals for urban streams in the upper Oconee watershed should include strategies that promote the storage and retention of carbon resources.