Klamath Network Water Quality Report (Phase II)
Section 5: Network-Wide Scoping, Identification, and Prioritization of Vital Signs for Aquatic Resource Monitoring
D. Network-Level Vital Signs Assessment
Priority Aquatic Resource Monitoring Questions
Two of the 10 most important network-wide vital signs monitoring questions identified at a Klamath Network meeting in Redding, California, April 27-28, 2005, were aquatic resource-focused. The top 10 monitoring questions (out of 172 monitoring questions and associated vital signs) were selected based on the total rating assigned to them by the individuals who participated in the Klamath Network vital signs/monitoring question rating process.
The two aquatic resources monitoring questions are:
1) What is the status and what are the trends of surface waters and pollutants, and
2) What is the status and what are the trends in structure, function and composition of locally limited (i.e., focal) aquatic communities?
The vital signs for each question are, respectively:
1) Water quality characteristics of surface and subterranean freshwater resources, and marine resources; and
2) Aquatic biota and communities.
Aquatic Resource Vital Signs Categories
Five general vital signs categories (Table 21) were identified from the park unit Vital Signs Tables (Tables 14-20, pages 61-73) as potentially affecting Klamath Network park unit freshwater resources: (1) atmospheric deposition of nutrients (e.g., nitrogen and phosphorus) and pollutants (e.g., mercury, persistent organics flame retardants, water repellent coatings, etc.); (2) presence and extent of native/introduced (invasive) aquatic biota (e.g., bullfrogs, exotic fish, invertebrates, algae, etc.); (3) climate change (e.g., changes in air and water temperature regimes and the timing and longevity of precipitation events and snow pack, etc.); (4) visitor use impacts – recreational; and (5) land and non-recreational human use impacts. Visitor use impacts – recreational was divided into four types of impact subcategories ranging from general impacts in the more developed and maintained areas in park units to backcountry impacts caused by activities such as hiking, backpacking, and camping. The land and non-recreational human use impacts category was divided into 15 types of impacts subcategories representing activities that include road construction and maintenance, treatment and deposition of human waste, dam operation and maintenance, agriculture, and past and present resource extraction operations (e.g., mining, timber harvest, geothermal exploration). A relatively high number of vital signs categories and subcategories (Table 22) were associated with lentic (12 of 22; 55%), lotic (15 of 22; 68%), and unique water resources (10 of 22; (45%). Lotic systems were also identified as especially associated with land and nonrecreational human use impact subcategories (i.e., 10 of 15 compared to 6 of 15 for lentic and unique water resources; Table 22). The vital sign categories and subcategories associated with cave water resources (e.g., ice, streams and springs) were climate change, visitor use, manipulation of the cave environment, park unit operations and nearby agricultural activities, and activities associated with fire suppression. Geothermal/hydrothermal resources were identified as being generally affected by visitor use and geothermal exploration near, yet beyond park unit boundaries.