Bug counting continues on Whychus Creek

August 21, 2012
Bug counting continues on Whychus Creek

Conservation partners throughout Central Oregon have joined in the work to restore Whychus Creek to a healthy fishery and ecosystem - and it's paying off.

One of the organizations to pitch in is the Xerces Society of Portland. Founded by one of the Northwest's pioneer invertebrate scientists, Robert B. Pyle, the Xerces Society recently celebrated it's 40th year of working toward conservation of butterflies and other invertebrates.

Last Saturday Lauren Mork, monitoring coordinator for the Upper Deschutes Watershed Council, and Celeste Mazzacano, staff scientist for the Xerces Society, organized volunteer stream invertebrate monitoring activity to see how the health of Whychus Creek is doing these days. Twenty-one volunteers met in Creekside Park, enjoyed a 20-minute training exercise by Mazzacano, and proceeded to reaches along 30 miles of the creek to monitor everything that had six or eight jointed legs - or a "stomach foot."

"Sampling macroinvertebrates regularly provides valuable insight into what is actually going on in Whychus Creek," said Kolleen Yake, education director for UDWC. "As stoneflies, mayflies, and other animals are a sensitive lot, their presence or abundance in rivers and streams provides clues that the system is doing pretty well."

Whychus Creek has become a model on methods to restore a stream to its once-pristine health and harmony.

Schoolchildren of all ages use it as living textbook; fishery biologists are uniting the creek with steelhead and salmon; plant ecologists are restoring the riparian areas; birders use the area continually; silviculturists study the ecology; hikers enjoy its beautiful trails.

"The aquatic macroinvertebrate community in Whychus Creek was assessed in 2005, 2009, and 2011, to detect potential biological effects of ongoing stream restoration projects," in a report on the monitoring of the creek, Mazzacano said. "The macroinvertebrate community composition changed each year, but the greatest change was seen between the 2005 and 2009 samples, and by 2011 the community appeared to be stabilizing.

"A sustained improvement in biological condition was seen in the downstream reaches of Whychus Creek and, although the upstream reaches showed less overall improvement, the numbers of particularly sensitive taxa improved.

"Continued sampling in 2012 will help reveal whether these improvements are a sustained trend, or whether the results in 2011 were affected by the unusually cold, wet conditions revealing in the winter and spring that preceded sampling in summer 2011."

In that light, the UDWC volunteer monitoring team will return next year to continue taking "snapshots" of what is happening to Whychus Creek.

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