Aquatic Invertebrate Monitoring at Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
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.
Since 2009, water quality, habitat, and aquatic insect communities indicate these streams may be mildly disturbed. The watershed of Fox Creek is impacted by several known human disturbances. However, several intolerant species were found in the streams. Both streams may also have natural seasonal stressors affecting stream quality. More monitoring may allow insight into trends occurring in the streams. Promoting conservation in the watershed also helps.