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Dow, C. L. and R. A. Zampella. In press. Specific conductance and pH as watershed disturbance indicators in streams of the New Jersey Pinelands, U.S.A. Environmental Management. (Summary)

In this study, we assessed the use of pH and specific conductance, collected through a typical fixed-station monitoring program, as indicators of watershed disturbance in Pinelands streams. We used linear regression to relate specific conductance and pH measured at Pinelands stream sites over a two-year period (September 1992 through August 1994) to the percentage of altered land in a watershed. Percentage altered land, which included developed and agricultural land uses within a drainage basin, defined watershed disturbance at a site. We found that accounting for the dominant altered land use (developed land versus agricultural land) did not significantly alter the relationships between the median water-quality values and the percentage altered land for a site. The water-quality/altered-land relationships also did not vary significantly across subregions represented by major drainage basins. The relationships obtained using median values were similar to those developed using data from any single-sample period within the entire study period. Compared to using pH and specific conductance in separate models, the joint use of pH and specific conductance markedly improved our ability to explain the variability in watershed disturbance among sites. Watershed managers can arrive at a relatively quick assessment of instream water quality at any Pinelands stream site relative to upstream disturbance using our final, jointly defined, water-quality/altered-land relationship. Ranges in pH and specific conductance can also be predicted for a given altered-land percentage or a change in existing altered-land conditions.

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