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A Longitudinal Assessment of Benthic Macroinvertebrate Diversity and Water Quality along the Bronx River

Maleha Mahmud1,2, David C. Lahti1,2, and Bobby Habig1,3,4,*

1Department of Biology, Queens College, City University of New York, 65-30 Kissena Boulevard, Flushing, NY 11367. 2The Graduate Center, City University of New York, 365 5th Avenue, New York, NY 10016. 3Department of Natural Sciences, Mercy College, 1200 Waters Place, Bronx, NY 10461. 4American Museum of Natural History, 200 Central Park West, New York, NY 10024. *Corresponding author.

Northeastern Naturalist, Volume 29, Issue 4 (2022): 415–440

The Bronx River is an urban waterway with a long history of anthropogenic disturbance. We conducted a longitudinal assessment of the Bronx River’s water quality by measuring benthic macroinvertebrate diversity at 6 sites along the river. We integrated long-term water-quality data collected by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. We found that the overall water quality of the river has remained moderately impacted over different timepoints throughout the past 22 years. The study site upstream of combined sewage overflows and municipal separate stormwater systems exhibited healthier biological profiles, whereas the most-downstream sites exhibited slight declines in water quality. The most recent survey of the Bronx River (2020) revealed that high invasive species dominance was associated with benthic macroinvertebrate communities that were less healthy. Notably, one invasive species not documented in historical surveys, Corbicula fluminea (Asian Clam), was sampled in 5 of 6 study sites during the 2020 surveys. Moreover, no species were sampled from the order Ephemeroptera (mayflies) in 2020 despite being present in previous surveys. These results can be used to guide the management of urban rivers.

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