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Investigating human impacts on stream ecology: locally and nationally

Author(s): Jillian K. Decker

State University of New York - Rockland Community College

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How does nutrient pollution impact stream ecosystems locally and nationally?

Licensed under CC Attribution 4.0 International according to these terms

Version 1.0 - published on 29 May 2019 doi:10.25334/Q43X90 - cite this

Adapted from: Investigating human impacts on stream ecology: locally and nationally v 1.0



Organic and nutrients, land cover and land use, biological indicators, human impacts stream ecosystem structure and function


  • Explore maps land cover and land use in the US to develop hypotheses about relative nutrient concentrations in US streams
  • Analyze national water quality data sets from the US Environmental Protection Agency at regional and national scales
  • Analyze local maps of land cover and land use in the Hudson Valley, NY
  • Explore various databases available for data collection on local water bodies in the Hudson Valley.
  • Develop a scientific question based on observations and later develop a hypothesis regarding spatial and/or temporal differences in water quality in the Hudson River.
  • Collect data from a database(s) and analyze whether or not the original hypothesis is supported by the data. 
  • Relate water quality with stream ecology


This version of Investigating human impacts on stream ecology begins with a few assessment questions on stream ecology posed to the class as a whole. Answers are discussed and then students are shown a ecoregion map with land cover information. Various biogeochemical processes and land-use practices are discussed. Human impacts and consequences of nutrient pollution (i.e. algal blooms) in general are explored. Once a general understanding of the topics of stream ecology and biogeochemical processes and human impacts on streams is established, students are asked to formulate a hypothesis about two different ecoregions that most likely differ in their nutrient concentrations in their streams based on land cover etc. Students are then shown data and asked to analyze whether or not the data supports their hypothesis. This exercise then includes a discussion on using local databases in the Hudson Valley (New York) as resources. The exercise ends with students collecting data their own data on the databases once they have developed a hypothesis and answering questions. 

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