Benthic Invertebrate Populations Indicate a Wide
Range of Water Quality
An index computed for four sites in Area 19 showed that the
invertebrates are useful indicators of water quality.
Like all organisms, invertebrates have ranges of tolerance to
environmental changes. When water
quality is altered by increases in sediment and other pollutants, the population
structure of benthic organisms responds with changes in species number and
diversity. As sensitive species are
eliminated, competition for food and shelter is reduced allowing those organisms
more tolerant of pollution to flourish. Clean
water is usually associated with a high community diversity while varying
degrees of pollution produce lower diversities associated with lower or higher
numbers in the total population.
Benthic invertebrates were collected at four sites in Area 19 during May and
June of 1980 (fig. 5. 1 0- 1). Sampling methods included artificial substrates, square-foot
bottom samplers, and kick sampling with dip nets.
Individual organisms were identified to the lowest practical taxonomic
level, usually to genus level.
A biotic index (Gore, Tennessee Technological University, written comm., 1980,
modified from Hilsenhoff, 1977) computed for each site indicated a wide range of
water quality within the area.
is the number of individuals of a given taxon;
is the total number of organisms collected;
is computed by assigning a value of zero to organisms known to be found only in
the cleanest streams and a value of five to organisms found in extremely
polluted waters. Intermediate
values are assigned as appropriate.
the Biotic Index, water quality is rated on a scale of zero to five with lower
values indicating better water quality.
The categories defined are:
< 1.75 excellent
>3.75 very poor
index is presently based on data from streams known to be polluted by organic
materials. Additional information
concerning benthic invertebrate populations in streams draining coal-bearing
rocks must be collected before the impact of mining practices can be defined.
Water quality for the sites in Area 19 as rated by the Biotic Index ranged from
excellent (1.58) at Poplar Creek near Oak Ridge, Tenn., to poor (3.28) at Coal
Creek at Lake City, Tenn. Water
quality at the other sites in the area was rated fair.
here for partial view of Figure 5.10-1
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