Submitted to: Soil and Water Conservation Society
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: January 24, 2007
Publication Date: July 22, 2007
Citation: Smiley, P.C., Shields Jr, F.D., Knight, S.S. 2007. Designing sampling protocols for evaluating ecological effects of conservation practices on agricultural streams. Soil and Water Conservation Society. p.33. Technical Abstract: Previous evaluations of the influence of conservation practices on agricultural streams have focused on water chemistry. Ecological assessments documenting how the habitat and aquatic biota within agricultural streams respond to conservation practices are lacking despite a critical need for this information. Numerous stream sampling protocols have been developed for monitoring habitat and biological resources. These protocols were designed for monitoring studies addressing the question "What is the status of the habitat conditions and target populations/communities, and how does this status change through time?" Conversely, scientific evaluations documenting ecological effects of conservation practices are designed to address the question "How does implementation of a specific conservation practice influence the habitat conditions and target populations/communities?" The difference in these research questions implies that sampling protocols designed for monitoring studies are not appropriate for scientific evaluations of conservation practices. We developed a framework for designing sampling protocols to evaluate ecological responses to conservation practices. Our framework includes five key principles: 1) develop the hypothesis first and use the hypothesis to select sampling methods and response variables to measure; 2) assess the physical, chemical, and biological characteristics of each sampling site; 3) select quantitative and repeatable sampling methods; 4) use multiple sampling techniques for collecting aquatic organisms; and 5) standardize sampling efforts for aquatic organisms. Application of our framework will result in sampling protocols that are hypothesis-driven and incorporate quantitative methods for the measurement of physical, chemical, and biological attributes.