In addition to water quality monitoring and treatment, Decota performs a variety of important assessments associated with biological monitoring. Biological monitoring is an effective way to determine the health of a water resource by identifying the presence or absence of environmental stressors on the local aquatic habitat. Because aquatic species respond differently to various types of stressors, a biological assessment can accurately identify what type of stressor is present within a community.

Benthic Macroinvertebrate Assessment

Benthic macroinvertebrates are small animals living among the sediments and stones on the bottom of streams, rivers, and lakes. Insects comprise the largest diversity of these organisms and include mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies, beetles, midges, crane flies, dragonflies, and others. Other members of the benthic macroinvertebrate community are snails, clams, aquatic worms, and crayfish. These organisms are extremely important in the food chain of aquatic environments as they are important players in the processing and cycling of nutrient and are major food sources for fish and other aquatic animals.

Benthic macroinvertebrates have been used for many years to assess water quality. Currently, they are utilized throughout the world in water quality assessments, as environmental indicators of biological integrity, to describe water quality conditions or health of aquatic ecosystems, and to identify causes of impairment. Benthic macroinvertebrate communities are known to respond to a wide array of environmental stressors, and in different ways. This response will often make it possible to determine the type of stress that has affected the community. Many macroinvertebrate taxa have relatively long life cycles. Thus, community structure is a function of past water quality conditions.

Crayfish Surveys

Crayfish are keystone species within their ecosystem and they fulfill many roles including forage for a plethora of higher-order species and as habitat creators for many others. The ecological importance of crayfish diversity is increasingly being recognized by state and federal regulatory agencies.

Due to the high rate of endemism of crayfish, combined with their sensitivity to anthropogenic habitat alteration and exotic invasives, many species are now imperiled. Decota staff is trained and permitted to carry out field surveys to determine crayfish presence/absence in the Coalfields region of West Virginia for species including the Guyandotte Crayfish (Cambarus veteranus) and the Big Sandy Crayfish (Cambarus callainus).