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Biological field sampling can be expensive, time consuming, and the results highly variable. A major goal of ecological data collection should be to obtain maximum information from each series of biological samples. Major factors regulating sampled populations must be identified if impacts are to be discriminated from effects of natural environmental variations.
There are often meteorological, hydrological, and water quality (physical-chemical) data available from nearby locations which can be used to describe the aquatic conditions between sample dates. This paper describes a methodology for using environmental data to better understand changes in biological populations by characterizing variations in natural factors.
Environmental factors which influence sampled organisms are examined to determine naturally occurring spatial gradients throughout the study region and temporal changes during the period of study. These environmental data are used to examine observed differences in sampled populations relative to natural environmental fluctuations. The methodology is demonstrated with environmental data used in the interpretation of phytoplankton samples. Recommendations are made for improving ecological data collection programs to allow analyses of impacts relative to natural environmental variations.
impact assessment, biological sampling, environmental data, time and space scales, phytoplankton, nuclear plant effects, flow effects, travel time, reservoir
Water Center, Tennessee Technological University, Cookeville, TN
Biologist, Fisheries and Aquatic Ecology Branch, Tennessee Valley Authority, Massed Shoals, AL