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Arch Environ Contam Toxicol. 2008 Oct;55(3):432-41. doi: 10.1007/s00244-008-9136-3. Epub 2008 Feb 28.

Considerations for assessments of wadable drainage systems in the agriculturally dominated deltas of Arkansas and Mississippi.

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  • 1ENSR, 4888 Loop Central Drive, Suite 600, Houston, TX 77081-2214, USA.


The watershed approach, currently used to assess regional streams in the United States, emphasizes least-disturbed reference conditions. Consideration of extensive wadable drainage systems found in Arkansas and Mississippi deltas challenges concepts of disturbance within a landscape of historic agricultural land use. Seventeen wadable drainage ditch sites in Arkansas and Mississippi deltas were characterized using water quality parameters and rapid bioassessment protocols. In all, 19 fish and 105 macroinvertebrate taxa were identified. Macroinvertebrate assemblages were dominated by coleopteran, dipteran, and hemipteran taxa at most drainage sites. Predominance of mobile, early colonists in ditches limits applicability of some metrics for assessment of stream integrity beyond prevalent conditions of ephemeral water quantity and habitat maintenance. This study provides evidence of considerable variability of physical characteristics, water quality, and fish and invertebrate metrics in wadable drainage systems. It indicates a disparity in usefulness of the watershed approach, emphasizing least-disturbed reference conditions, in assessing ecological integrity for a region with ditches as dominant landscape features.

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