An Illustrated Habitat Comparison

Bad Mussel Habitat

Good Mussel Habitat

There are many indicators of a healthy river or stream that we can see with our own eyes.

If you want to know the health of a river or stream, look for what lives there! Species diversity is the primary sign of a healthy ecosystem. If there are only a few species in and around the water, there may be a problem with the water quality.

Migratory birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, macroinvertebrates, riparian vegetation, and aquatic plants are all important indicators of a healthy freshwater ecosystem. Some of these organisms are more tolerant of pollution than others. The presence or absence of different organisms can tell us a lot about our local waterways.

Professional and citizen scientists can assess a body of water’s health through direct observation of what’s living there. Using biodiversity to “read” an ecosystem is an important way to guide management and restoration efforts.

Use these two illustrations to determine if your local waterway is in good health.