Aquatic Invertebrate Community Monitoring at Pipestone National Monument

Pipestone Creek at Pipestone National Monument
Pipestone Creek


Scientists use established methods to track aquatic invertebrates and assess stream water quality conditions. Aquatic invertebrates can include insect larvae, worms, crayfish, snails, and other animals without backbones. Many invertebrates live in a stream for several months, which exposes them to changing water quality conditions over time. When scientists monitor aquatic invertebrates, they can find out what species are present and their tolerance level to pollution and disturbances. Some species can live in poor water quality conditions, while others need cleaner conditions. Aquatic invertebrate communities can serve as the "canary in the coal mine" for water quality of a stream.

Control chart showing the EPT richness values for Pipestone Creek
Control chart for EPT richness for Pipestone Creek. Points are
means for a given sampling date and the vertical bars are standard errors.
The horizontal line represents the warning threshold for management action.

Since 1996, the invertebrate community, water quality, and habitat have been stable. But, starting in 2006 more tolerant species have appeared. Except for turbidity and E. coli levels, Pipestone Creek is considered a good quality stream.

Pipestone Creek is affected by urban development and farming practices. This explains the increased turbidity and E. coli levels. This presents managers with a problem, what should they do? Maintaining and widening the areas near streams can help protect the aquatic life and reduce erosion. This would decrease chemical runoff and sediment from entering the stream. Promoting conservation in the watershed also helps.

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Data in this report were collected and analyzed using methods based on established, peer-reviewed protocols and were analyzed and interpreted within the guidelines of the protocols.

Last updated: March 16, 2018