Date of Award

8-2010

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Legacy Department

Wildlife and Fisheries Biology

Advisor

English, William

Committee Member

Brown , Bryan

Committee Member

Goetcheus , Cari

Committee Member

Mobley , Catherine

Committee Member

Post , Christopher

Committee Member

Sharp , Julia

Abstract

Clear, cool headwater streams in the mountains of North Carolina are inextricably linked to the surrounding landscape. Trickling perennial streams drain precipitation from their catchment and are capable of sustaining excellent water quality to support rich aquatic biodiversity that feeds and beneficially contributes to the stream network below. However, headwater ecosystems can be easily compromised by even seemingly insignificant anthropogenic impacts. Small headwater streams were not mapped until recently, and are now known to be ubiquitous. Although the NC Mountains contain some of the highest headwater streams densities in the nation, they remain very susceptible to changes in the catchments that sustain them.
Understanding effects from changes in the catchment can ameliorate future impacts, prioritize preservation efforts and inform restoration trajectories. Although a variety of stakeholders have preserved and passively managed unimpaired stream systems, others have attempted to enhance or restore streams with limited success. Without consideration to the surrounding landscape, these efforts may not be successful. This dissertation offers a starting point for determining thresholds of anthropogenic impacts to sustain biological integrity in headwater streams and offers examples of successful Extension education outreach efforts.

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