Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Research

Below are selected research summaries from several completed and ongoing studies.  Please see our Research Reports for documents related to these and other research projects.

Monitoring and Assessment of Aquatic Life in the Kaskaskia River for evaluating IDNR Private LandKaskBasin.jpgs Programs

Goals/ Objectives: (1) Develop and initiate monitoring program that provides a basin-wide assessment of status and trends for aquatic life in wadeable streams of the Kaskaskia River; (2) track the status of selected populations of sensitive species in focal reaches of the Kaskaskia River associated with enhanced DO regulations, BSS designation, and presence of SGNC; (3) evaluate the influence of conservation easements and associated practices on biological communities within the Kaskaskia River Basin.

Summary Statement: This project will initiate a basin-wide monitoring and assessment program for wadeable streams in the Kaskaskia River.  Baseline information on aquatic macroinvertebrates (EPT), freshwater mussels, and fish will be collected at selected reaches using a stratified random sampling design to characterize conditions throughout the watershed and provide for long-term trends assessments.  Populations of selected species will be monitored in focal reaches associated with high biological diversity (BSS reaches) or sensitive taxa (enhanced DO reaches, SGNC).  Additional sampling will be conducted at fixed sites in several smaller watersheds to monitor temporal changes in biological communities as private lands program initiatives mature on the landscape. 


 

Assessing Vulnerability of Coolwater Habitats in Illinois Wadeable Streams 

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Goals/ Objectives: 1) Identify coolwater habitats and associated fish species on Illinois’ wadeable streams; 2) Characterize thermal and flow regimes under current conditions and scenarios describing landcover and climate change; 3)  Assess vulnerability (sensitivity and exposure) of thermal and flow regimes to landcover and climate changes for coolwater reaches; 4)  Examine potential changes in fish species distributions and connectivity of their associated habitats; 5) provide annual and final reports that include an assessment of vulnerability to alterations in landcover and climate projected to occur in Illinois.

Summary Statement: Thermal and hydrologic regimes in running waters are an expression of regional climate acting on local watershed characteristics.  Change in either of these interactors is expected to alter these regimes and associated habitats impacting the biological assemblages dependent on them.  We have used previous work describing the hydrologic (T-2) and thermal character (T-13) of wadeable streams to characterize stream segments into types throughout the state (T-75).  Cooperative efforts have also developed a land transformation model (T-2) and attributions of downscaled climate change models for Illinois.  This study will use these data to assess the vulnerability (exposure and sensitivity) of coolwater stream habitats, and associated fish species, to potential changes in regional and local landcover and climate.  Outputs will include maps depicting existing and potential habitat extent and species distributions, and an assessment of the relative vulnerability of existing habitats and populations to change associated with potential alterations in landcover and climate.          



Stream Monitoring at Nachusa Grasslands

Wade_5US_2JUL13.JPGNachusa Grasslands is a 4,000-acre preserve north of Franklin Grove, IL, owned by The Nature Conservancy.  The site consists of remnant and restored prairies, wetlands, small streams, savannas, and woodlands. Nachusa has some unique aquatic features including a spring-sand boil, seep/fen area and one of very few coldwater streams found in Illinois, Wade Creek. Part of Nachusa's management is to reintroduce natural ecological processes such as fire and grazing that maintain habitat for the widest possible range of native plants and animals. In fall 2014, Nachusa Grasslands is planning to reintroduce native grazers, bison, to a section of their restored prairie which includes Wade Creek.

Since Wade Creek has several unique and high quality aquatic features, long-term monitoring is in progress to assess effects of bison introduction on prairie stream ecosystem structure and function. Habitat and biological assessments are collected annually to monitor before and after bison are reintroduced. This project will contribute to our understanding of prairie stream ecological responses to restoration and management of prairie ecosystems. This project is in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy.


 

Development of a Hierarchical Framework for Illinois Streams

EDUs_AESs_VSTs.jpgGoals/ Objectives: (1) Develop Ecological Drainage Units for Illinois Streams; (2) Develop and Classify Illinois’ Stream Valley Segments; (3) Define Aquatic Ecological Systems for Illinois Streams; (4) Define Natural Community Types for Illinois Streams; and (5) Develop and submit a list of candidate sites for INAI listing under Category I (High Quality and Significant Natural Communities) and revised Category VI (Unusual Concentrations of Fauna) criteria for streams.

Summary Statement: This project will provide critical information to update the Illinois WAP Stream Campaign and the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory Stream Habitat Designations by formalizing a hierarchical classification framework, defining physical and biological expectations, and describing natural community types (NCT) for wadeable streams.  NCTs will be embedded within the hierarchical stream classification and developed to parallel those used for terrestrial systems in the Illinois Natural Areas Inventory’s Natural Community Classification System.  This framework will define baseline conditions, identify high quality segments, and classify streams in Illinois to increase our ability to effectively conserve, manage, and protect these resources.  Where data are available candidate high quality and significant natural stream communities (Category I) and unusual concentrations of flora or fauna (Category VI) will be identified and nominated for inclusion in the INAI using expectations developed in this project.  This work will identify data gaps for fisheries and aquatic resources, assist with defining priorities for wadeable streams within Conservation Opportunity Areas defined in the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, and provide a framework for tracking the conservation and monitoring of aquatic Species in Greatest Need of Conservation throughout Illinois.


 

 

Review and Update of Non-mollusk Invertebrate Species in Greatest Need of Conservation

Goals and Objectives:  1) Review all SGNC listing criteria for currently listed non-mollusk invertebrate species using criteria in Illinois Wildlife Action Plan, 2) Assess current status of species populations, 3) Review criteria for additional species for potential listing as SGNC, 4) Assess stressors to species previously reviewed, 5) Complete draft updates and revisions of IWAP Appendix I and Appendix II for non-mollusk invertebrates.

Summary Statement:  More than half of Illinois’ Species in Greatest Need of Conservation (SGNC) are invertebrates (58%) yet the status of the vast majority of these and other invertebrate species has been incompletely assessed in the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan.  This project will use existing information to review, update and revise the list of non-mollusk invertebrate SGNC (e.g., crustaceans, insects) for the IWAP (Appendix I).  Further, an assessment of the status, distribution, and stressors of these invertebrates will be drafted for incorporation into the IWAP where appropriate data are available (Appendix II). 


 



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