Urban Stream Ecology and Management

An ongoing research program to improve our understanding of urban streams

Urban streams tend to be among the most altered of aquatic ecosystems, but the mechanisms driving their degradation are poorly understood. Urban streams are often linked with a city’s storm water and sewer system; because of this, these waterways are subject to increased disturbance, run-off, and pollution.  In many cases, these streams are highly degraded and have lowered water quality and impaired biotic communities.

In partnership with Athens-Clarke County government and the Upper Oconee Watershed Network, researchers at the RBC have been studying the ecosystem structure and function of regional waterways since 2007. The goal of this work is to better understand the mechanisms driving urban stream degradation and use that insight to help local governments make well-informed management decisions to improve the health of their local freshwater systems.

Current research includes the continuous monitoring of water quality in local streams, with an emphasis on the role of conductivity, and the development of a real-time sensor network in Athens’ streams for remote, instant access to water quality information. Also, insect samples from these sites are being identified in order to determine which invertebrate species are effective bioindicators for stream health.


RBC Personnel: Amy Rosemond, Seth Wenger, Emily Johnson, Phillip Bumpers
Partners: Athens-Clarke County, Upper Oconee Watershed Network
Funding: USGS NIWR

Urban streams tend to be among the most altered of aquatic ecosystems. Pictured here, the North Oconee River flows through Athens, GA. Photo by Philip Juras.