This was the question members of the Resources for Health Roots and Shoots group was asking on Tuesday. One of the best ways to get a sense of the health of a stream is to look at the community of organisms that actually are living in it. Since they are spending all of their time in the stream they have to experience all of the pollution that flows through, whether chemicals, heat, or sediment. The most reliable organisms to take a look at are macroinvertebrates (macro meaning large* and invertebrate meaning an animal without a backbone, think: bugs). As some aquatic invertebrates are more susceptible to pollution than others, noting what kinds of invertebrates are residing in the stream can give a fairly accurate indication of health.
One of the ways in which they are going to survey the aquatic macroinvertebrate population in Council Creek is by setting out leaf packs. Students collected dead leaves in plastic bags, tied them shut and poked holes in them. Then they placed them in the middle of the stream and anchored them down so they wouldn’t wash away. Some macroinvertebrates prefer to eat dead leaves and the fungus growing inside so these leaf packs will attract a number of our notochordless friends. Next month when the Roots and Shoots Green Team comes out, the students will open up the leaf packs and investigate who decided to snack on the free buffet they provided and this survey will help give an idea of how healthy the stream currently is.
*Note on the use of “macro” in this term: we are not looking for bugs the size of German Shepherds, they are merely large (or macro) when compared to the rest of the invertebrate community, most of which are single-celled and/or microscopic.
Thank you Roots and Shoots! Thank you to Clean Water Services for funding this project!