Rohm, C.M., J.M. Omernik, A.J. Woods, and J.L. Stoddard. 2002. Regional characteristics of nutrient concentrations in streams and their applications to nutrient criteria development. J. Am. Water Resources Assn. 38:(1)213-239. WED-01-039
In order to establish meaningful nutrient criteria, consideration must be given to the spatial variations in geographic phenomena that cause or reflect differences in nutrient concentrations in streams. Regional differences in stream nutrient concentrations were illustrated using stream data collected from 928 nonpoint-source watersheds distributed throughout the country and sampled as part of the U.S. EPA National Eutrophication Survey (NES). Spatial patterns in the differences were compared and found to correspond with an a priori regional classification system based on regional patterns in landscape attributes associated with variation in nutrient concentrations. The classification consists of 14 regions composed of aggregations of the 84 U.S. EPA Level III Ecoregions. The primary distinguishing characteristics of each region, as well as factors associated with variability in water quality characteristics are presented. The use of the NES, and many other extant monitoring data sets, to develop regional reference conditions for nutrient concentrations in streams is discouraged on the basis of sample representation. The necessity that all sites used in such an effort be regionally representative and consistently screened for least possible impact is emphasized. These sampling issues are rigorously addressed by the U.S. EPA Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP). A case-study, using EMAP data collected from the Central and Eastern Forested Uplands, demonstrates how regional reference conditions and draft nutrient criteria could be developed.