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Estimating invertebrate response to changes in total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and specific conductance at sites where invertebrate data are unavailable

September 16, 2021

The purpose of this report is to describe a possible approach to estimate changes in invertebrate taxa richness at sites with known water-quality trends but no invertebrate data. In this study, data from 1,322 sites were used to describe invertebrate response to changes in total nitrogen, total phosphorus, or specific conductance, and to estimate changes in invertebrate taxa richness at 259 sites with reported water-quality trends but no invertebrate data. Sites were stratified using propensity score analysis to control for confounding factors (for example, climate, land use, land cover). Generalized linear models were developed to describe changes in invertebrate taxa richness along gradients of total nitrogen, total phosphorus, and specific conductance values. The magnitude and direction of invertebrate response to gradients of water quality varied among parameters and strata, with changes in invertebrate taxa richness per natural log unit change in concentration ranging from –7 to +6. However, estimated changes in invertebrate taxa richness at sites with known water-quality trends were much less and did not exceed three taxa until changes in concentration were greater than 50 percent. Applying this approach provides (1) a first screening to identify where changes in invertebrate taxa richness are likely to occur and (2) the necessary groundwork to improve estimation of invertebrate response to trends in water quality where biological data are lacking.