, Volume 680, Issue 1, pp 39–51 | Cite as

Impacts of urbanization on stream habitats and macroinvertebrate communities in the tributaries of Qiangtang River, China

  • Beixin Wang
  • Dongxiao Liu
  • Shuru Liu
  • Yong Zhang
  • Dongqi Lu
  • Lizhu Wang
Primary Research Paper


The impacts of watershed urbanization on streams have been studied worldwide, but are rare in China. We examined relationships among watershed land uses and stream physicochemical and biological attributes, impacts of urbanization on overall stream conditions, and the response pattern of macroinvertebrate assemblage metrics to the percent of impervious area (PIA) of watersheds in the middle section of the Qiantang River, Zhejiang Province, China. Environmental variables and benthic macroinvertebrates of 60 stream sites with varied levels of watershed urban land use were sampled in April, 2010. Spearman correlation analysis showed watershed urbanization levels significantly correlated with increased stream depth, width, and values of conductivity, total nitrogen, ammonia, phosphate, calcium, magnesium, and chemical oxygen demand for the study streams. There was significant difference in total taxa richness, Empheroptera, Plecoptera, and Trichoptera (EPT) taxa richness, and Diptera taxa richness, percentages of individual abundances of EPT, Chironomidae, shredders, filterers, and scrapers, and Shannon–Wiener diversity index between reference streams and urban impacted streams. In contrast, percentages of individual abundances for collectors, oligochaeta, and tolerant taxa, and biotic index were significantly higher in urban impacted than reference streams. All the above metrics were significantly correlated with PIA. The response patterns of total taxa richness, EPT taxa richness, and Shannon–Wiener diversity index followed a drastic decrease at thresholds of 3.6, 3.7, and 5.5% of PIA, respectively. Our findings indicate that stream benthic macroinvertebrate metrics are effective indicators of impacts of watershed urban development, and the PIA-imperviousness thresholds we identified could potentially be used for setting benchmarks for watershed development planning and for prioritizing high valued stream systems for protection and rehabilitation.


Bioassessment Stream Urbanization Benthic macroinvertebrate Total impervious area Qiantang River 



This project was funded by NSFC (No. 40971280) and the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central University (No. yo201100063). We appreciate the kind help of Yu Haiyan, Zhou Bin, and Yu Jie in sites selection and chemical variables measurement. We also gratefully acknowledge Dr. David Dudgeon and two anonymous reviewers for their constructive suggestions on the improvement of this paper.


  1. Allan, J. D., 2004. Landscapes and riverscapes: the influence of land use on stream ecosystems. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 35: 257–284.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Booth, D. B., 1991. Urbanization and the natural drainage system – impacts, solutions and prognoses. Northwest Environmental Journal 7: 93–118.Google Scholar
  3. Booth, D. B., 2005. Challenges and prospects for restoring urban streams: a perspective from the Pacific Northwest of North America. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 24: 724–737.Google Scholar
  4. Brett, M. T., G. B. Arhonditsis, S. E. Mueller, D. H. Hartley, J. D. Frodge & D. E. Funke, 2005. Non-point-source impacts on stream nutrient concentrations along a forest to urban gradient. Environmental Management 35: 330–342.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Carter, J. L., A. H. Purcell, S. V. Fend & V. H. Resh, 2009. Development of local-scale urban stream assessment method using benthic macroinvertebrates; an example form the Santa Clara Basin, California. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 28: 1007–1021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Chen, D. Q., F. Xiong, K. Wang & Y. H. Wang, 2009. Status of research on Yangtze fish biology and fisheries. Environmental Biology of Fishes 85: 337–357.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cuffney, T. F., R. A. Brightbill, J. T. May & I. R. Watte, 2010. Response of benthic macroinvertebrates to environmental changes associated with urbanization in nine metropolitan areas. Ecological Applications 20: 1384–1401.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Davies, P. J., I. A. Wright, S. J. Findlay, O. J. Jonasson & S. Burgin, 2010. Impact of urban development on aquatic macroinvertebrates in south eastern Australia: degradation of in-stream habitats and comparison with non-urban streams. Aquatic Ecology 44: 685–700.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Duan, J. R., H. Y. Zhang, K. Liu & W. G. Shi, 2007. Study on biodiversity of fisheries resources in Yangtze River’s lower reaches based on GIS. Journal of Jimei University (Natural Science) 12(3): 221–225.Google Scholar
  10. Dudgeon, D., 2000. Conservation of freshwater biodiversity in Oriental Asia: constraints, conflicts, and challenges to science and sustainability. Limnology 1:237–243.Google Scholar
  11. ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.), 2006. Leica Geosystems GIS and Mapping, Atlanta, GA.Google Scholar
  12. ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.), 2008. ArcGIS 9.3.1. ESRI, Redlands, CA.Google Scholar
  13. Galli, J., 1991. Thermal Impacts Associated with Urbanization and Storm Water Management Best Management Practices. Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Maryland Department of Environment, Washington, DC: 188 pp.Google Scholar
  14. Google Maps, 2009. Google maps/Earth terms of use.Google Scholar
  15. Gresens, S. E., K. T. Belt, J. A. Tang, D. C. Gwinn & P. A. Banks, 2007. Temporal and spatial responses of Chironomidae (Diptera) and other benthic invertebrates to urban stormwater runoff. Hydrobiologia 575: 173–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hilsenhoff, W. L., 1987. An improved biotic index of organic stream pollution. Great Lake Entomologist 20: 31–39.Google Scholar
  17. King, R. S., M. E. Baker, P. F. Kazyak & D. E. Weller, 2011. How novel is too novel? Stream community thresholds at exceptionally low levels of catchment urbanization. Ecological Applications 21: 1659–1678.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Klein, R. D., 1979. Urbanization and stream quality impairment. Water Resources Bulletin 15: 948–963.Google Scholar
  19. Kondolf, G. M., 1997. Application of the pebble count reflections on purpose, method, and variants. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 33: 79–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lin, H., 2001. Adverse stress of urban domestic waste water discharge on water quality of Qiantang River and relevant regulating countermeasures. Master Thesis, Zhejiang University.Google Scholar
  21. Magurran, A. E., 1988. Ecological Diversity and Its Measurement. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ.Google Scholar
  22. McDonald, R., 2008. Global urbanization: can ecologists identify a sustainable way forward? Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 6: 99–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Men, W., 2009. System engineering for water pollution control at the watershed level in China. Frontiers of Environmental Science and Engineering in China 3(4): 443–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Meybeck, M., 1998. Man and river interface: multiple impacts on water and particulates chemistry illustrated in the Seine River Basin. Hydrobiologia 373(374): 1–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Miserendina, M. L., C. Brand & C. Y. Di Prinzio, 2008. Assessing urban impacts on water quality, benthic communities and fish in streams of the Andes Mountains, Patagonia (Argentina). Water, Air and Soil Pollution 194: 91–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Moore, A. A. & M. A. Palmer, 2005. Invertebrate biodiversity in agricultural and urban headwater streams: implications for conservation and management. Ecological Applications 15: 1169–1177.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Morse, J. C., L. F. Yang & L. X. Tian, 1994. Aquatic Insects of China Useful for Monitoring Water Quality. Hohai University Press, Nanjing.Google Scholar
  28. Morse, C. C., A. D. Huryn & C. Cronan, 2003. Impervious surface area as a predictor of the effects of urbanization on stream insect communities in Maine, U.S.A. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 89: 95–127.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Ometo, J. R. H. B., L. A. Martinelli, M. V. Ballester, A. Gessner, A. V. Krusche, R. L. Victoria & M. Williams, 2000. Effects of land use on water chemistry and macroinvertebrates in two streams of the Piracicaba river basin, south-east Brazil. Freshwater Biology 44: 327–337.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ourso, R. T. & S. A. Frenzel, 2003. Identification of linear and threshold response in streams along a gradient of urbanization in Anchorage, Alaska. Hydrobiologia 501: 117–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Paul, M. J. & J. L. Meyer, 2001. Steams in the urban landscape. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 32: 333–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Paul, M. J., D. W. Bressler, A. H. Purcell, M. T. Barbour, E. T. Rankin & V. H. Resh, 2009. Assessment tools for urban catchments: defining observable biological potential. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 45: 320–330.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Purcell, A. H., D. W. Bressler, M. J. Paul, M. T. Barbour, E. T. Rankin, J. L. Carter & V. H. Resh, 2009. Assessment tools of urban catchments: developing biological indicators based on benthic macroinvertebrates. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 45: 306–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. R Development Core Team, 2008. R: A Language and Environment for Statistical Computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna.Google Scholar
  35. Roy, A. H., A. D. Rosemond, M. J. Paul, D. S. Leigh & J. B. Wallace, 2003. Stream macroinvertebrate response to catchment urbanization Georgia, U.S.A. Freshwater Biology 48: 329–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Song, M. Y., F. Leprieur, A. Thomas, S. Lek-Ang, T. S. Chon & S. Lek, 2009. Impact of agricultural land use on aquatic insect assemblages in the Garonne river catchment (SW France). Aquatic Ecology 43: 999–1009.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. SPSS Inc., 1998. Systat Version 8.0: Statistics. SPSS Inc., Chicago, IL.Google Scholar
  38. Standard Methods for the Analysis of Water and Wastewater, 2002. 4th Edition. Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People’s Republic of China, Beijing.Google Scholar
  39. Stepenuck, K. F., R. L. Crunkilton & L. Wang, 2002. Impacts of urban land use on macroinvertebrate communities in southeastern Wisconsin streams. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 38: 1041–1051.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Taylor, S. L., S. C. Roberts, C. J. Walsh & B. E. Hatt, 2004. Catchment urbanization and increased benthic algal biomass in streams: linking mechanisms to management. Freshwater Biology 49: 835–851.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Walsh, C. J., A. K. Sharpe, P. F. Breen & J. A. Sonneman, 2001. Effects of urbanization on streams of the Melbourne region, Victoria, Australia. I. Benthic macroinvertebrate communities. Freshwater Biology 46: 535–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Walsh, C. J., A. H. Roy, J. W. Feminella, P. D. Cottingham, P. M. Groffman & R. P. Morgan II, 2005. The urban stream syndrome: current knowledge and the search for a cure. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 24: 706–723.Google Scholar
  43. Walsh, C. J., K. A. Waller, J. Gehling & R. Nally, 2007. Riverine invertebrate assemblages are degraded more by catchment urbanization than by riparian deforestation. Freshwater Biology 52: 574–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Wang, L. & J. Lyons, 2003. Fish and benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages as indicators of stream degradation in urbanizing watersheds. In Simon, T. P. (ed.), Biological Response Signatures: Indicator Patterns Using Aquatic Communities. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL: 227–249.Google Scholar
  45. Wang, B. X. & L. F. Yang, 2004. A study on tolerance values of benthic macroinvertebrate taxa in eastern China. Acta Ecologica Sinica 24: 2768–2775.Google Scholar
  46. Wang, L., J. Lyons, P. Kanehl & R. Gatti, 1997. Influence of watershed land use on habitat quality and biotic integrity in Wisconsin streams. Fisheries 22(6): 6–12.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wang, L., J. Lyons, P. Kanehl, R. Bannerman & E. Emmons, 2000. Historical fish assemblage changes and watershed urban development in southeastern Wisconsin streams. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 36: 1173–1189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wang, L., J. Lyons, P. Kanehl & R. Bannerman, 2001. Impacts of urbanization on stream habitat and fish across multiple spatial scales. Environmental Management 28: 255–266.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wang, L., J. Lyons & P. Kanehl, 2003. Impacts of urban land cover on trout streams in Wisconsin and Minnesota. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 132: 825–839.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wang, L., D. M. Robertson & P. J. Garrison, 2007. Linkages between nutrients and assemblages of macroinvertebrates and fish in wadeable streams: implication to nutrient criteria development. Environmental Management 39: 194–212.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Weaver, L. A. & G. C. Garman, 1994. Urbanization of a watershed and historical changes in a stream fish assemblage. Transaction of the American Fisheries Society 123: 162–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Wolman, M. G., 1954. A method of sampling coarse river-bed material. Transactions of the American Geophysical Union 35: 951–956.Google Scholar
  53. Yan, R., F. Kong & X. Han, 2004. Analysis of the recruitment of the winter survival algae on the sediments of Lake Taihu by fluorometry. Journal of Lake Science 16: 163–169.Google Scholar
  54. Yao, W., 2007. Land use and land cover dynamic in Qiantang River watershed: 1985–2004. Bulletin of Since and Technology 23: 502–507.Google Scholar
  55. Zhang, Y. X., D. Dudgeon, D. S. Cheng, W. Thoe, L. Fok, Z. Y. Wang & J. H. W. Lee, 2010a. Impacts of land use and water quality on macroinvertebrate communities in the Pearl River Drainage basin, China. Hydrobiologia 652: 71–88.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zhang, Y. Y., J. Xia, T. Liang & Q. Shao, 2010b. Impact of water projects on river flow regimes and water quality in Huai River basin. Water Resource Management 24: 889–908.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Zhao, S. Q., L. G. Da, D. Z. Tang, H. J. Fang, K. Song & J. Y. Fang, 2006. Ecological consequences of rapid urban expansion: Shanghai, China. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 4: 341–346.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beixin Wang
    • 1
  • Dongxiao Liu
    • 2
  • Shuru Liu
    • 1
  • Yong Zhang
    • 1
  • Dongqi Lu
    • 1
  • Lizhu Wang
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Entomology, College of Plant ProtectionNanjing Agricultural UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.College of Environment and ResourceNanjing Agricultural UniversityNanjingChina
  3. 3.Institute for Fisheries ResearchMichigan Department of Natural Resources and University of MichiganAnn ArborUSA

Personalised recommendations