Stream Water Quality and Aquatic Communities

Three people holding nets wading up a small stream surrounding by meadow and forest.
NPS staff sampling a stream in Lassen Volcanic NP


Streams are significant and productive resources that are influenced by activities both inside and outside parks boundaries. Because healthy streams are vital to park landscapes and ecosystems, we sample physical, biological, and chemical parameters. These varied parameters allow us to measure change over time and across the landscape. Thus, we can detect trends and assess impacts.

Since 2011, the Klamath Network has been monitoring streams in five parks. The protocol combines monitoring water quality characteristics of streams, such as the chemical and physical conditions, with monitoring the aquatic communities that the stream supports, such as the fish, plants, and macroinvertebrates. The combined protocol is extremely effective as it can provide both snapshots in time of water quality and habitat properties, as well as long term indications of health from the living assemblages.

Objectives are to:

  • Determine the status and trends of conditions in wadeable streams.
  • Assist parks with “impaired quality waters,” also known as “303d” lists as defined by the Clean Water Act.
  • Assist parks with monitoring of “Outstanding National Resource Waters” or Tier 3 waters as defined by the Clean Water Act.

We measure/collect:

  • Physical environment including substrate composition, depth, gradient, discharge, stream width, and bank height.
  • Water anions, cations, and nutrients.
  • Water quality parameters including dissolved oxygen, temperature, specific conductivity, turbidity, and pH.
  • Algal samples to determine periphyton biomass.
  • Benthic macroinvertebrates.
  • Visual Encounter Surveys for amphibians.
  • Fish populations.
  • Photographs to provide visual comparisons over time.

Monitoring Documents

Monitoring Reports

Source: Data Store Saved Search 615. To search for additional information, visit the Data Store.

Monitoring Protocol

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Last updated: October 19, 2018