Paper No. 214-14
Presentation Time: 12:15 PM
EVALUATING AQUATIC RESOURCES OUTSIDE AND WITHIN PARK BOUNDARIES OF THE EAST BRANCH OF THE LITTLE CALUMET RIVER WITH RESPECT TO THE INDIANA DUNES NATIONAL LAKESHORE
The mission of the National Park Service is to preserve and protect the natural resources within its boundaries. However, ecosystems span areas that are both within and outside park boundaries. This study evaluates aquatic resources both within and outside the boundaries of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore within the East Branch of the Little Calumet River watershed, a subwatershed of Lake Michigan. The hypothesis tested is that the National Park Service lands serve as a refuge for native fish populations. The East Branch of the Little Calumet River watershed occupies ~183 km2 of the Central Corn Belt Plain ecoregion, which contains a variety of local land uses including agriculture, residential, commercial, industrial, forest, and grass/pasture. A total of 62 sites were sampled from 2012 to 2013. Thirty-six sites were sampled from areas within park boundaries and 26 sites were sampled from areas outside park boundaries. All sites were sampled for biological, chemical, and physical conditions – the three pillars of ecological sustainability. Fish data were collected using a Smith-Root 2.5 GPP electrofishing system following standard methods in Indiana for assessing ecological conditions using the Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI). Water chemistry data for each site were assessed using a bench-top spectrophotometer (Hach DR 2700). Physical data were assessed using the Qualitative Habitat Evaluation Index (QHEI). Similarities and differences in the data were analyzed with regard to on-park versus off-park datasets. This study addresses whether aquatic resources within the park can be maintained independently of those outside of park boundaries because of the presumed principle that parks are a refuge for aquatic resources.