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Craig Still

4034 Fairview Industrial Drive SE
Salem Oregon 97301
541-224-4168
March 4th 2016
Mr. Roy Elicker
Head of ODFW
ODFW (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)
4034 Fairview Industrial Drive SE
Salem Oregon 97301
Dear Mr. Elicker,
Contained in the document below is my report on the effects of human activity on aquatic and
riparian biology and habitat.
In this report I have accumulated as much information as I can on this topic and outlined my
research methods and results. In Oregon, riparian and aquatic wildlife are an integral part of the
natural world. These fragile ecosystems are sources of great biodiversity and contain many
beautiful and unique forms of life. Unfortunately these sources of great natural beauty are also
vulnerable to many different threats that are often posed by human activity. As you know, here at
ODFW we strive to conserve and protect the natural habitats of our beautiful state. In this report
I outline many of these threats and effects, and study how human interaction with nature is
changing these biospheres drastically and sometimes permanently.
Sincerely,

Craig A Still

Human effect on Oregon’s
Riparian and Aquatic Habitats

A Report By: Craig Still

Introduction:
As human populations grow the impact that they make on the world around them grows
as well. Around the world the growing impact of the human race affects and changes the natural
environments that exists around us. Global warming is a notable example of this effect. As
industry grows, more and more byproducts are trapped in our atmosphere, trapping heat and
gradually increasing the earth’s temperature. In my home state of Oregon, the story is no
different. As population grows the human impact that is changing natural environments also
grows. One of the places where these impacts are having the largest repercussions can be found
in aquatic and riparian habitats.
Riparian and aquatic habitats are integral parts of Oregon’s wildlife. Both habitats are
extremely biodiverse and serve functions that are very important to habitats around them. For
some background information, a riparian habitat is the ecosystem that exists between a body of
water (more specifically fresh water) and the adjacent bank. It is often packed with hydrophilic
(water loving) vegetation and a home to a broad
array of unique flora and fauna. In relation to the
aquatic habitats they surround, riparian habitats
serve extremely vital purposes. For one they are
extremely good at holding the bank together with
their complex system of roots. This means they
play a key role as erosion buffers and in the
reduction of river energy. They can also act in bio
filtrating, keeping sediment and other harmful things out of rivers, lakes, and other bodies of
water. With aquatic habitats you come to the bodies of water themselves and the organisms that
exist inside these bodies of water. Not only do these habitats provide many of the nutrients
needed in riparian habitats, they themselves are homes to a myriad of different species. From fish
to water plants to micro-organisms an uncountable amount of life exists in every aquatic
ecosystem. Unfortunately the effects of human populations greatly affect both of these habitats in
various ways, impacting all of the life that exists in these two kinds of ecosystems.
Ecosystems that have existed for thousands of years are now being rapidly changed by
the ways in which mankind has relatively quickly changed this earth. These changes have a

multitude of effects, from a decrease in biodiversity, to the transformation and even
disappearance of habitat. All of these effects are linked together, often compounding the impact
of anthropogenic destruction and misjudgment. In this report I strove to explore how these kinds
of changes are affecting my home state. More specifically I studied and learned how humans are
currently affecting riparian and aquatic habitats in Oregon.
Methods:
To study the effects of humans on these two kinds of habitats I used many different
methods. I started out with collecting some background information through many
unprofessional online sources. With this information I was able to specifically gather information
about some of the general effects that I already was aware of. After that I moved on to some
scholarly peer reviewed sources. These sources described in great detail topics like biodiversity,
and some of the very specific yet potent effects that things like global warming have on riparian
and aquatic habitats. These sources often detailed past primary research that gave me a much
deeper perspective on the topic. With the peer reviewed sources I was able to exit the realm of
general knowledge and dig into the specifics of my topic.
After I completed my secondary research I moved on to my own primary research. I
accomplished this through two different methods. First I did a survey just to get a general idea of
how recreation impacts riparian and aquatic environments, and second I conducted a phone
interview with an ODFW (Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife) habitat expert. The
interview was probably the most illuminating portion of the entire research process as habitat
was so central to my research question. The survey on the other hand was again a more general
exercise. In truth I did not find this survey to have a very big impact on my understanding of the
topic.
When I was conducting my primary research I found that my survey harbored many
limitations. For one I was surveying people from the state of Oregon, so my survey was
restricted to an online platform as I am currently living in New Mexico. This ended up severely
limiting the amount of responses that I received. Another limitation to my survey was the fact
that the respondents were not exactly random. Most were my friends, limiting the demographic
of my survey. As far as the Interview the only limitation that I encountered was the fact that I

only spoke with a habitat specialist. This limited the scope of information that I received and
may not have provided me with all of the data.
Results:
When I was gathering the data for my survey the Idea was just to figure out some of the
general ways in which Oregonians are affecting the environment through local recreation. I
asked a series of eight questions just to determine how people are using the natural water ways
around them. From this survey got some surprising results. For example I found that swimming
in a natural water source was a much more common activity than fishing. This implied that
fishing, as a recreational activity (not an industry), was having less of an impact on natural water
ways then fishing. The other important and somewhat surprising set of results that I found
through my survey was the data I gathered on recreational boating activity. Of my participants I
found that about 52% of them owned or had access to a boat. Of the people who said they had
access to a boat the distribution between motor, sail, and row boats was fairly even. Going into
the survey I thought that the distribution would definitely be weighted towards motorboats but I
was pleasantly surprised to see that many people were using boats that have less of an impact on
natural aquatic habitats. Through these results I was able to get a very general picture of how
people around the state are impacting aquatic and riparian habitats through everyday recreation.
My interview, on the other hand, provided me with some very specific results that I do
not think I could have found anywhere else. We started out by talking about some of the more
obvious effect that humans have imposed upon aquatic and riparian habitats, mainly river
reshaping and diversion. For many years people in Oregon have been modifying and diverting
rivers. For example many farmers have diverted natural waterways in Eastern Oregon to provide
better irrigation and or drainage. What usually happens to waterways like rivers when they are
modified in this way is that they straighten
out and become shorter. Naturally a river
tends to wind and meander in ways that
reduce the speed and energy of said river,
but when you take out these natural bends
then the river no longer has this energy
outlet (Germond). This means that the

speed of the water increases along with the energy of the river, which causes a greater rate of
erosion. These effects greatly threaten the habitats of many aquatic species as their rivers become
faster, shorter, and filled with sediment that is eroding off of the banks. From this point, I was
also told about other effects of diverting rivers. My interviewee showed me how diverting rivers
destroyed riparian habitats by removing the water source that they need to survive. We also
explored the effects of dam creation and the formation of reservoirs and how that kind of river
diversion created completely new environments that many species could not survive in.
After discussing the more obvious effects humans are having on habitat, we then moved
on to discuss some things most people never think about. These effects are just mundane things
that happen every day but have a great cumulative effect on aquatic and riparian habitats. One of
the things we discussed was the effects of copper being washed into our water systems. Every
time the brakes of a car are used, some copper gets scraped off of those brake pads. This copper
ends up on the road and eventually gets washed off of the road and into a ditch. Eventually the
water with the copper in it gets washed through the drainage system and back into natural water
ways. This copper is a problem because it doesn’t mix well with Salmon (Germond). More
specifically the copper messes with key sensory outputs that Salmon use to warn other Salmon
about predators (Brown, Aimee).
Another problem that my interviewee informed me about was the effect of waste water
being treated and put back into the natural system. Depending on how well this water is treated
various levels of chemicals like Nitrogen are put back into natural aquatic systems which can
have varied effects on water quality and habitat destruction. Finally we covered a very specific
example involving trout and culvers. When a road is constructed over a stream a culver is placed
under it to facilitate the continuing movement of the stream. Many of these culvers were not
constructed with the native trout, who live in said streams, in mind. These can lead to a
restriction of a trout’s habitat, and disaster if the trout tries to swim through a culver where
perhaps the water is too low.
Habitat loss affects many species, but, as an example, I decided to research and highlight
some of the more specific effects of habitat loss on Salmon. Salmon, as a species, have been

suffering the effects of human
interference for a long time. Things
like river diversion and the creation
of dams greatly affects salmon
specifically as they have a biological
imperative to return to their home
streams for reproduction. As you can
see in the chart attached a long trend
of decrease in salmon population has
been recorded throughout the 20th
century and into the 21st. This alarming trend represents a niche that is being left empty by
decreasing salmon populations and a threat to aquatic ecosystems and biodiversity all throughout
Oregon.
Through secondary research I was able to find 3 other main kinds of effects of human
activity on Oregon’s natural aquatic and riparian environments. These three families are as
follows: the effects of excess nitrogen in natural water systems, the effects of global warming,
and the effects of invasive species. To begin, an excess amount of nitrogen is one of the biggest
problems any water system faces. One of the reasons that it is so prolific is due to the fact that
there are so many ways for nitrogen to get into water systems. Whether the source is agricultural
runoff or waste water being integrated back into natural water systems, Nitrogen has a way of
getting into natural bodies of water in high concentrations. When high concentrations of nitrogen
get into the water the end result can be eutrophication, a process that effectively robs a water
source of oxygen. This process can be especially devastating in stagnant bodies of water like
lakes and reservoirs where there is not a lot of fresh water cycling through the system. Excess
nitrogen can have devastating effect on aquatic ecosystems and has even been known to
completely wipe out communities of aquatic animals.
We all know that global warming is effecting ecosystems and habitats around the world
but how specifically does it affect aquatic and riparian habitats? Well for starters the solubility of
gas in a liquid solvent entirely depends on temperature. This means that as the temperature of the
water begins to increase the levels of gas that has been dissolved in water, such as oxygen, begin

to decrease. This is bad news for fishes and other animals who like to live in cold oxygen rich
water. Another way in which global warming is affecting our earth is that it dramatically
increases the frequency of precipitation events (Brown, Cheryl). This means that there are far
more droughts and floods than there used to be. These events are very bad news for riparian
biological communities who rely on soil quality and are not accustomed to this variation in
saturation. This all leads to the decline and even possible extinction of species that are less
adaptable to these changes. As these species die off ecosystems will be dramatically changed in
often irreparable ways. As of now global warming is on track to dramatically change the
biospheres of both aquatic and riparian habitats in ways that we can barely imagine.
Finally Invasive species are a huge threat to already fragile aquatic and riparian
biological communities. An invasive species is a species that is introduced into a nonnative
environment where it can take over an ecosystem and outcompete native organisms (USDA).
These species are usually transported by
humans in some way and can have terrible
consequences for the ecosystems into which
they are introduced. For example to the left
you can see an entire beach covered in zebra
mussels, an invasive species that is
somewhat common in Oregon. What an
invasive species usually does to an
ecosystem is decrease biodiversity through basic out competition of other species. These kinds of
invasive species can take over food supplies and habitats, and are usually able to reproduce
quickly and excessively. This threat to biodiversity threatens to narrow and change the
biospheres of riparian and aquatic Oregon.
Discussion:
From the evidence I gathered in my results it is clear to me that riparian and aquatic
habitats are being changed, and not for the better. Biodiversity is being threatened left and right,
and for every species lost a niche goes unfilled creating a biological void that can impact
biodiversity even more. Whether these threats come from the destruction of habitat or just
common things that are part of all of our lives effort simply has to be put into discovering and

mitigating these effects. The most important thing to take away from this report is the fact that a
threat to biodiversity somewhere is a threat to biodiversity everywhere. If we want to keep this
earth beautiful and livable everyone needs to actually care enough to put in the work. Whether it
is supporting politicians who are not willing to ignore climate change or simply just turning off
lights that are not being used, everyone has a part to play in saving an environment that we have
ignored for so long.
Appendix A: Survey Questions
1. How often do you go fishing (year round)?
2. When you go fishing what do you most often fish for?
3. In the summer, how often do you swim in a natural body of water (rivers, lakes, etc.)?
4. Do you own or have access to a boat?
5. How often is this boat used?
6. If you said yes to question 3 what kind of boat is it (motor, sail, or man powered), and
where do you use it? (Optional)
7. During the summer, how often do you camp near a lake or river?
8. How often do you camp on or near the Oregon coast?
Appendix B: Interview Questions
1.

Which species are the most important for aquatic and riparian habitats and why?

2.

What are some current trends in aquatic ecology (such as wildlife population trends, and
habitat destruction/growth trends)?

3.

Which waterways are most effected by population growth, and how are these areas
changing?

4.

Which species (flora or fauna) are being most effected by population growth and how?

5.

Why are these waterways and species more effected by population growth then others?

6.

How do these effects impact species diversity?

7.

What kind of habitats are most adversely effected by population growth.

8.

Why are these particular environments more effected than others?

9.

How does industry affect these habitats?

10.

Which industries have the greatest impact on riparian wildlife?

11.

Which industries have the greatest impact on aquatic wildlife?

12.

How does government regulation help or harm riparian and aquatic wildlife?

13.

How do invasive species effect wildlife in and around Oregon’s water ways?

14.

How much of a problem is species diversity?

15.

What sorts of volunteer groups work to improve aquatic and riparian environments?

16.

What kinds of activities do these volunteers participate in?
Works Cited (MLA format)

Brown, Aimee. "Copper Increases Predation Risk to Salmon, Other Fish." Copper Increases
Predation Risk to Salmon, Other Fish. N.p., n.d. Web. Feb. 2016.
Brown, Cheryl A. "Effect of Climate Change on Water Temperature and Attainment of Water
Temperature Criteria in the Yaquina Estuary, Oregon (USA)." Estuarine, Coastal and
Shelf Science 169 (2016): 136. Print.
Crook, David A. "Human Effects on Ecological Connectivity in Aquatic Ecosystems: Integrating
Scientific Approaches to Support Management and Mitigation." Science of The Total
Environment 534 (2015): 52. Print.
Fierro, Pablo. "Rainbow Trout Diets and Macroinvertebrates Assemblages Responses from
Watersheds Dominated by Native and Exotic Plantations." Ecological Indicators 60
(2016): 655. Print.
"Forests and Fish." Protecting Aquatic Habitat in Oregon’s Forests The Oregon (n.d.): n. pag.
Oregon Forest Resources Institute. Web. Feb. 2016.
Germond, John. Telephone interview. 19 Feb. 2016.
"Invasive Species: Animals." Invasive Species: Animals. USDA, n.d. Web. Feb. 2016.

"Natural Resources Conservation Service." Riparian Areas Environmental Uniqueness,
Functions, and Values. USDA, n.d. Web. Feb. 2016.
"NOAA's National Ocean Service Education: Estuaries." NOAA's National Ocean Service
Education: Estuaries. NOAA, n.d. Web. Feb. 2016.
NOYES, Pamela D., and Sean C. LEMA. "Forecasting The Impacts Of Chemical Pollution And
Climate Change Interactions On The Health Of Wildlife." Current Zoology 61.4 (2015):
669-689. Academic Search Complete. Web. 2 Mar. 2016.
Reflection:
As I was writing this report, more than anything I wanted to bring some part of my home
here to New Mexico. In my opinion one of the most beautiful things about Oregon is its clear
abundance of vibrant rivers and natural bodies of water. New Mexico is obviously very different,
and I thought that contrast would make my report all the more interesting and compelling. But as
things like climate change and other anthropogenic effects become more and more apparent, this
piece of wilderness is rapidly changing and in some cases disappearing. Ever since I was a kid I
have been outdoors playing in rivers and swimming in lakes and the fact that these habitats and
biological communities are being destroyed is scary. The fact is so many people are either
unaware of or unwilling to accept this destruction that not a lot is being done to change anything.
Everyone has a part to play in saving the natural wonders of our world and the sooner that people
know this, the sooner we can start reversing some of the damage we have caused.
As I began to explore this topic I definitely found some research topics more useful than
others. What I found to be the most useful form of research was my phone interview with an
ODFW Habitat expert. It was so useful to have a conversation about how so many habitats are
changing with someone who honestly knows so much more than I do. He brought up topics that I
would never have even thought of and presented this information in a clear, concise, and useful
way. Probably the least constructive form of research that I did was in the form of my survey.
Since many people don’t know very many specific facts about how humans are changing aquatic
and riparian habitats, it was very difficult to create a useful survey that generated data that was
pertinent to my research question. On the other hand I found secondary research to be very

useful. There is honestly so much information out there if you are just willing to look for it. This
kind of exploration helped me with SLO number 2, finding and evaluating information. I was
able to learn what kinds of research are most effective when it comes to gathering information
for an analytical report.
When considering audience, and SLO #1, it was honestly so hard to write this report just
to my stated group (ODFW). Quite honestly ODFW already knows all of this information
because their job is to study Oregon’s wildlife and habitats. So all that I wanted to do was
communicate the information that I had gathered to a more general audience that may not be
aware of it. But I did my best to follow my rhetorical situation and write my paper in a way that
could also be given as just a cumulative report to ODFW. As far as revisions go I decided to
include a lot more specific information that could be linked directly to my resources. This change
was recommended by my peer reviewer and I decided to accept the recommendation because I
thought it would add to the ethos of my paper. The more that you can show you are following
your research directly, the more likely someone is to take your paper seriously. I also decided to
include a few more visuals as the beginning of the original paper had very few. As far as
revisions go that was about it. I just focused on making my paper more specific and more
visually friendly.