Pike County Conservation District (PCCD) has been collecting surface water data from sites throughout the county, every year, for 30 years! The District has been monitoring macroinvertebrate populations since 1991 and fish populations since 1995. PCCD also collects habitat and water quality data when out in the field at each stream research site. Fish and macroinvertebrates are well known to be sensitive to changes in their environment and have thus become one of the most common ways to determine stream health.
The PCCD Watershed Specialist, staff, and volunteers sampled macroinvertebrates in the spring by using a D-frame kick net, agitating the bottom of the creek with our feet, and collecting the insects that go into the net. Later in the season PCCD staff, along with Aquatic Resource Consulting Inc. staff, went out to sample the fish populations by electrofishing. This method uses a light electric current to stun fish in the stream. The fish are identified and then released back into their habitat without harm. To read more about electrofishing, click here.
What is an IBI Score?
PCCD has historically used the Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI) score as way to interpret stream health and trends throughout the county. It is a commonly used method to create one standard score from the variety of data collected at each sampling site.
For macroinvertebrate sampling, the IBI score takes into consideration tolerance to pollution and the diversity of the insects found at each sampling site with a scale that runs from 0 to 100. For fish sampling, the IBI is calculated a little differently, with the scores ranging from 10 to 50. The fish IBI value is subject to additional variables, including number of individuals caught and the number of trout/salmon present at each site.
Good News for Anglers!
At four of the five sampling sites for this year, we were able to identify several sensitive fish species which serve as indicators of good water quality. Cutlips Minnows and Margined Madtoms, as well as several Brown Trout, were found among the stream sites. These species are intolerant of pollution and will generally not be found in a stream that is impaired. Trout are also a prized game fish here in Pike County and throughout Pennsylvania, so it’s important that we keep an eye out to ensure quality angling for years to come. Many of the fish species we identified are insectivores (only eat insects) or omnivores (eat both plants and other animals) which can tie into our macroinvertebrate sampling results.
Several sensitive species of aquatic insects were found throughout the sites in this year’s sampling which is another sign of stream health. All sensitive creatures need good water quality, habitat, and food to survive. Their continued presence shows just how great the quality of Pike County’s streams can be!
2021 Report Available
The 2021 “Environmental Quality of Pike County Streams” report is available here. Check out the report to see if any of your local streams were sampled this year and reach out to us if you have any questions!