Habitat assessments are very important because the waterway bank and bed stability, stream habitat and riparian vegetation are imperative for the healthy function of aquatic ecosystems. Stable stream banks and beds are necessary to prevent erosion. Erosion can lead to reduced water quality and loss of aquatic habitats. Furthermore it can lead to damage to infrastructure such as roads, bridges and buildings. The condition and function of the in-stream and channel habitat will influence the bio-diversity of aquatic plants and animals present in the waterway. Riparian vegetation is one of the most important features for assessing the condition of waterways, due to the important structural functions they provide. This includes stabilising banks, acting as a buffer zone and providing habitat for fish, birds and other wildlife.
Three key components of stream condition and habitat are, bank and bed stability, stream habitat availability and riparian zone disturbance. Monitoring bank and bed stability provides information on sediment processes occurring in the stream, including erosion, transportation and deposition of sediment. These processes strongly impact on the condition of riparian and in-stream habitats. The abundance and distribution of channel and in-stream habitats are important limiters of stream biota. If the right habitat type for an organism is not present at a location, then the organism will be absent, regardless of the physical-chemical and biological conditions of the waterway. The information produced by stream habitat assessment methods can help to explain the presence of animals at the site. Riparian vegetation perform numerous important functions within catchments. It filters run-off before it enters the stream, keeps water temperatures low and constant and also stabilises the waterway banks. Therefore by assessing the extent of disturbance to the riparian zone, this provides information on how well the riparian vegetation can perform these critical functions.
Check the How To page to find the methods and data sheets, which are all provided in order for these observations to be able to be carried out in the field, without the presence of a Waterwatch officer.
For further information on terrestrial or marine environmental lessons please feel free to Contact Us, as we are more than happy to assist you with these needs.