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Physical habitat and water quality of small streams draining areas of differing urban land use: North Buffalo Creek, Greensboro, North Carolina

Authors: Sarah Praskievicz*, University of North Carolina - Greensboro
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Geography Education, Land Use
Keywords: geography education, land use, hydrology, urban streams, water quality
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Urban development causes a wide range of changes to physical, chemical, and ecological processes in streams. Not all urban land use is the same, however; urban areas include several different types of land use (e.g., commercial, industrial, residential), all of which affect stream processes differently. This research (conducted by 26 undergraduate students as part of a class taught in Fall 2019) examines physical habitat and water quality for streams draining areas of differing urban land use. The study area is Greensboro, North Carolina, focusing on two sites on the mainstem North Buffalo Creek and three unnamed tributaries, all of which have different urban land use in their drainage areas (a residential neighborhood, a university campus with constructed wetlands, and a city center). Students used the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Wadeable Streams Assessment to characterize physical habitat of the five sites. Over the Fall 2019 semester, they also made near-weekly measurements of water quality (temperature, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, pH, and ORP) using a YSI Professional Series ion-selective electrode meter, and took near-weekly water samples to analyze for suspended-sediment concentration using the gravimetric method in the lab. Results include the influence of different types of urban land use on physical habitat and water quality and the potential for restoration actions that could improve physical, chemical, and ecological functioning of urban streams. From a pedagogical perspective, the research demonstrates that a relatively large class of undergraduate students can be trained to conduct field-based urban stream research, thus benefiting their education through experiential learning.

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