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Southeast Coast Network (SECN)

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Riverine Water Quality Monitoring

Egret at Cape Lookout National Seashore
Egret at Cape Lookout National Seashore

There are currently no briefs, reports, or protocol documents associated with this topic.

For more information contact: Eric Starkey

Monitoring Objectives

Determine status and trends of water temperature, pH, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, nutrients, major ions (sulfate, chloride, nitrate, magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium), and trace metals (including aluminum, copper, iron, manganese, lead, zinc), and/or fecal coliform bacteria.


Degradation of water quality is of current and growing concern in all Southeastern waterbodies, particularly in the Southeast Coast Network, where development pressure adjacent to park boundaries results in reductions of physical, chemical, and biological components of water quality. Adverse effects of impeded water quality on biota include altered floral- and faunal- species composition, reduced fecundity, low fitness, and bioaccumulation. The Southeastern U.S. is one of the fastest growing areas in the nation; consequently, marine and freshwater water quality in the region has been impacted (White et al. 1998). Despite the abundance of 303(d)-listed waters in the Southeast Region, only ten percent of SECN water resources are 303(d) listed. However, most of the SECN parks are downstream from multiple 303(d) listed waters outside NPS jurisdiction.

Monitoring Approach

Water quality data in most SECN Parks, and adjacent lands, have been (and continue to be) collected by a variety of governmental and private entities. Monitoring protocols for the core water chemistry parameters (pH, DO, specific conductance, temp) and ANC are being adapted from existing USGS and NPS protocols. Protocols for nutrients will follow a two-tiered approach where initial sampling will be conducted using colorimeter-based methods. In cases where higher accuracy is desired or needed, methods requiring laboratory analyses of water samples will be employed. SECN water quality monitoring efforts will be coordinated with ongoing monitoring efforts conducted by the parks and other state and local agencies. Where feasible, SECN will augment existing activities and help with data analysis and interpretation.

Like stream habitat, water quality monitoring designs will vary greatly among parks. Because most SECN Parks with significant riverine resources do not contain or have management jurisdiction over the watersheds affecting water quality, the majority of water quality monitoring is expected to be based on index-site sampling at the upstream end of reaches to assess the quality of water entering park boundaries. Because of the large amount of water quality data being collected by State agencies and USGS, the sampling designs will be tailored on a park-by-park basis to best leverage efforts already underway. It is anticipated that the Network will use a combination of index sites (co-located or in close proximity to stream gauging stations) and Spatially Balanced Random Sampling design where possible (Stevens 1997, Stevens and Olsen 2003, Stevens and Olsen 2004, Theobald et al. 2007).

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Parks Where Protocol Will Be Implemented

  • Chatahoochee River National Recreation Area (CHAT)
  • Congaree National Park (CONG)
  • Horseshoe Bend National Military Park (HOBE)
  • Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park (KEMO)
  • Moores Creek National Battlefield (MOCR)
  • Ocmulgee National Monument

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  • Stevens, D.L. 1997. Variable density grid-based sampling designs for continuous spatial populations. Environmetrics 8: 164-195.
  • Stevens, D. and A.R. Olsen. 2003. Variance estimation for spatially balanced samples of environmental resources. Environmetrics 14: 593-610.
  • Stevens, D. and A.R. Olsen. 2004. Spatially balanced sampling of natural resources. Journal of the American Statistical Association 99: 262-278.
  • Theobald, D.M., D. Stevens, D. White, N. Urquhart, A. Olsen, and J. Norman. 2007. Using GIS to generate spatially-balanced random survey designs for natural resource applications. Environmental Management 40(1): 134-146.
  • White, P., S. Wilds, and G. Thunhorst. 1998. Regional Trends of Biological Resources - Southeast. Pages 255-314 in M.J. Mac, P.A. Opler, C.E. Pucket Haecker, and P.D. Doran, editors. Status and Trends of the Nation's Biological Resources, Volume 1. U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA.

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